Reducing Overclassification of DHS’ National Security Information

Reducing Overclassification of DHS’ National Security Information (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) creates, receives, handles, and stores classified information as part of its homeland security, emergency response, and continuity missions. As creators and users of classified information, DHS is responsible for both implementing national policies and establishing departmental policies, to ensure that such information is adequately safeguarded when necessary and appropriately shared whenever possible. With proper classification of intelligence products, DHS can share more information with State, local, and tribal entities, as well as the private sector.

The Reducing Over-Classification Act of October 2010 (Public Law 111-258) requires the DHS Secretary to develop a strategy to prevent the over-classification and promote the sharing of homeland security and other information. This is the first of two reviews we are mandated to conduct under this act.

Specifically, we assessed the overall state of the DHS national security information program and reviewed 13 DHS components to determine whether applicable classification policies, procedures, rules, and regulations have been adopted, followed, and effectively administered. We also identified policies, procedures, rules, regulations, and management practices that may be contributing to persistent misclassification. We coordinated with other Offices of Inspector General and the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration to ensure that our review’s evaluations followed a consistent methodology that allowed for cross-agency comparisons.

As a result of our review, we determined that DHS has adopted and successfully implemented all policies and procedures required by applicable Federal regulations and intelligence community directives. Through implementing Office of the Chief Security Officer’s policies and procedures, DHS has a strong program that should lead to better communication and sharing of intelligence throughout the Federal Government and with State, local, and tribal entities, as well as private sector partners. However, the Department’s program can be strengthened by deploying a new classification management tool after testing, and by capturing all classified holdings better. We are making two recommendations that when implemented will improve the Department’s overall management of its classification processes. The Department concurred with both recommendations.