The Adrienne C. Thomas Auditorium at the National Archives in College Park was packed on the morning of February 28, 2014 as over two hundred people, representing agencies from throughout the Federal Government, came together to celebrate the completion of quality assurance review of over 351 million pages of historically valuable classified records accessioned by the National Archives, commonly known as “the backlog.” The President of the United States had directed this review and established a deadline of December 31, 2013 for its completion. In less than four years, agencies came together in support of the National Declassification Center (NDC) to make this achievement possible by stopping the endless merry-go-round of re-review, adopting standard processes and adopting a risk management approach to records that had been previously reviewed.
In her opening comments, describing just a few of the elements that went into the success of the effort, NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger remarked to the assembly, “Look around this room, success looks like each of you!”
This success does not mean that the work of the NDC is done. Much like a commencement, the celebration represented a beginning as well as an end. New records continue to be accessioned, and we will build on the lessons learned during the backlog retirement to continually improve our process. Many reviewed records await final segregation of the still classified from declassified, while other collections are in queue for archival preservation work and the creation of finding aids. Standard training for declassification review and communication between declassification and records management professionals need to expand. The NDC, working with our government agency partners will continue to move forward and build on this success to make access happen.