Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How can a new administration impact national security?

How do presidential elections impact the Department of Defense contractor community’s ability to compete for contracts? “In recent history two sequential presidents have provided separate executive orders directing how to protect classified information,” says security consultant and author Jeffrey W. Bennett. Presidents Clinton and Bush have issued policies directing what qualifies to receive a CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET or TOP SECRET classification.
Democrat presidents often reflect a policy of openness. Some policy changes President Clinton implemented tightened the reins on what could be classified and for how long. “President Clinton’s policy made it tougher to classify information and contributed to the declassification of thousands of documents,” says Bennett.
Republican Presidents tend to ease classification standards. However, President Bush kept pretty much the same structure as President Clinton’s Executive Order 12958. He later implemented Executive Order 13292. “The changes President Bush implemented included providing more flexibility of the classification process. He also added defense measures against transnational terrorism,” says Bennett.
Both examples of recent elections changed the way government agencies and DoD Contractors conduct business. President Clinton’s Executive Order set a specific duration of classified information. “Classified information outside of the established time frame had to either go through a process to retain the classification or be re-marked. If the information did not qualify for extended classification, then a classification change had to be annotated at a lower level or declassified all together,” says Bennett. President Bush made changes that required re-designation of classification markings and extended duration of classification when necessary.
Those are only a few examples of the changes affecting the DoD contractor industry. Reduction in classified holdings was a benefit of changes both administrations made. “Depending on the government report, between 10 percent and 90 percent of documents are over-classified. Tougher classification standards are good provided that national security is still protected,” adds Bennett. From a financial overhead point of view, a reduction in classified holdings helps lower overhead costs as fewer security containers and vaults are needed.
What changes can we expect from President Elect Obama? “The industry shouldn’t expect drastic changes. Though there may be an effort toward openness, our nation’s leaders understand the importance of protecting national security. Providing classification for the right reasons protects our country and reduces the amount of classified information needing specialized storage.” The trend will require materials and manpower to make the changes in markings and reduce the classified holdings.

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