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Announcement Concerning the Annual Report on the Federal Information Security System and a Letter to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office

March 27, 1984

On March 23, 1984, the President received the FY 1983 Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) annual report on the information security system. In a letter to ISOO Director Steven Garfinkel, the President expressed his appreciation to those whose efforts have helped to make the information security system work.

The number of original classification decisions is the most important measurement of an information security program. During the first year of the President's Executive order on national security information (Executive Order 12356), government officials classified almost 200,000 (18 percent) fewer new secrets than they had in any of the previous 3 years. In addition, most of this reduction occurred in the higher classification levels, "Secret" and "Top Secret." These facts and many others about the Government's information security program are contained in a March 16, 1984, report from the ISOO, which is located in the United States General Services Administration and oversees the government-wide information security program.

In his letter to the President transmitting the FY 1983 annual report, ISOO Director Garfinkel stated: "This reduction [in original classification] is an unprecedented accomplishment, especially in the context of improved protection for national security information." Garfinkel also noted that to date the President's announced objective of "enhancing protection for national security information without permitting excessive classification" is being achieved.

Among the other accomplishments set out in the report are the following:

—Under the revised system in FY '83, classifiers marked documents for automatic declassification at a rate 3.5 times as great as they had under the prior Executive order.

—The number of persons authorized to classify information originally continued to decline under the new Executive order and is down by almost 90 percent from the total number of classifiers in 1972.

—Over 90 percent of public requests for declassification under the mandatory review provisions of this order resulted in complete or partial declassification and disclosure of the information requested, the highest rate of disclosure ever achieved.

—The transition from the information security system under the prior Executive order to the revised system under the new Executive order resulted in no serious problems or abuses.

The report also addresses several areas of the information security program in which greater efforts are needed to meet the goals established by the President. These include the generating of additional classified documents deriving from original classification decisions, the program for systematic declassification review of the historically valuable classified records in the National Archives, the quantity and quality of agency self-inspections designed to detect security infractions, and delays in processing researchers' declassification review requests. The President has asked that the Information Security Oversight Office pay particular attention to these areas in the coming year.

March 23, 1984

Dear Mr. Garfinkel:

I was very pleased to review your FY 1983 Annual Report and to learn that the system we have established under Executive Order 12356 to provide better protection for national security information without excessive classification is working. While we anticipated that the revised information security system would improve credibility and efficiency of the program, its success is also dependent upon the outstanding oversight efforts of you and your staff and the thousands of other persons throughout the executive branch who are dedicated to making it work. Please convey my appreciation to all those whose efforts made these achievements possible.

I ask for the same commitment in the future to improving our performance even more. We must continue to insure that information is being classified only when this extraordinary protection is necessary; that those entrusted with access to national security information appreciate the seriousness of their responsibility to safeguard it; and that systematic review and other declassification efforts are made in accordance with the order's goal of making information no longer requiring security protection available to the public.

I trust that you and your staff will continue to work with responsible officials throughout the Government to address these and other issues that relate to the administration of the information security program. I look forward to future reports on the progress that has beef made as a result of these efforts.



[Mr. Steven Garfinkel, Director, Information Security Oversight Office, 18th and F Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20405]

Note: The 27-page report is entitled "Annual Report to the President, FY 1983- Information Security Oversight Office."

Ronald Reagan, Announcement Concerning the Annual Report on the Federal Information Security System and a Letter to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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