Sensitive But Unclassified Info: Keep It Simple, Task Force Says

By Joseph Straw

A presidential task force has issued recommendations to speed establishment of a single regime for handling of sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information, aimed at fostering information sharing by eliminating more than 100 different and often conflicting designations and markings used by different federal agencies.

Then-President George W. Bush launched the effort last year, per Congress’s mandate for establishment of a global Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to eliminate the information “stove-piping” that contributed to the government’s failure to prevent the 9-11 attacks

The Bush Administration coined a new term for the information in question: controlled unclassified information (CUI), because "SBU" is already among the 117 existing designations used by government agencies.

Upon taking office, President Barack Obama ordered a 90-day review of the process, which produced this week’s report from a presidential task force.

Honoring the goal of simplicity, the 36-page report offers the White House a list of 40 recommendations, starting with a simplified definition of CUI: “All unclassified information for which, pursuant to statute, regulation or departmental or agency policy, there is a compelling requirement for safeguarding and/or dissemination controls.”

The task force also recommended a moratorium on creating new SBU regimes as well as setting a minimum of tiering within CUI information, such as high, medium, and low.

The 117 documented SBU designations and markings include the familiar "For Official Use Only," and similar, but esoteric designations like "Official Use Only- Sensitive Internal Information" and "Sensitive Information- Special Handling Required."

Keeping with the Obama Administration’s goal of improving government transparency, the task force recommended policy explicitly stating that the CUI framework has no impact on information’s subjectivity to the Freedom of Information Act.

♦ Picture by DRB62/Flickr


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