Billions Spent on Secrecy

By Hernandez, Debra Gersh | Editor & Publisher, July 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

Billions Spent on Secrecy


Hernandez, Debra Gersh, Editor & Publisher


Government agencies are spending nearly $6 for document classification and security, but less than one percent of that is spent on declassification.

According to figures released by Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.), government agencies spent an estimated $2,705,938,957 in fiscal year 1995 and $2,741,987,125 in fiscal year 1996 for document classification and related security, with an additional $2,741,987,125 in fiscal to reimburse private contractors for document security costs (1996) figures are not yet available).

Skaggs' office estimated that about $20 maybe to little million is spent each year on declassification.

Steven Garfinkel, director of the National Security Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, put the declassification figure in the neighborhood of $20 million, "maybe a little bit more."

The reports were coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration. They do not include data from the Central Intelligence Agency, which chose to keep its figure classified, nor from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which did not return a report.

"They, would not permit us to camouflage their figures by adding them to another agency's number, because they wanted to keep their figures distinct," Garfinkel said of the CIA.

For example, he said, the "Department of Defense figures include the DoD and other elements of the National Foreign Intelligence [Program] community. It includes agencies like the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency and other parts of the intelligence community. The others may be classified, but when they are [grouped together] under the Department of Defense, they are unclassified. If you take them out, they may need to be classified.

"We know the CIA's number, but it is classified," he added.

Garfinkel guessed that the estimate for the Office of National Drag Control Policy, the Drug Czar's office, would be "relatively small. It's not going to have much impact on the [total] number at all."

Skaggs has been fighting for release of these classification spending reports as a means to control costs. Recently approved language in a Treasury-Postal Service funding bill would require the same tabulations for 1997.

"It's hard to discipline spending unless you know how much it is," Skaggs commented. "When I started this effort, classification costs were buried in agency budgets .... These reports are helping to clear the fog that has covered a document classification system stuck on autopilot - indiscriminately stamping `Top Secret, on thousands of documents every year."

Most of the classification costs were attributed to the Department of Defense, with the above-mentioned intelligence inclusions, which was estimated to have spent $2,526,091,000 in fiscal year 1996 on security classification costs.

Other agencies estimated to have spent more than a million dollars for security classification costs in fiscal year 1996 were: the Department of Energy, $98,474,000; the Department of State, $30,157,000; the Department of Justice, $27,756,564; the Department of the Treasury, $12,377,000; the Department of Commerce, $10,187,291; the National Archives and Records Administration, $9,520,000; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, $8,760,500; the Department of Transportation, $3,629,000; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, $2,756,800; the Department of the Interior, $2,535,000; the U. …

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