H.R. 553 Senate Amendment: Reducing Over-Classification Act

H.R. 553

Reducing Over-Classification Act

September 28, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

The Senate Amendment to H.R. 553 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) on January 15, 2009, and approved by the House on February 3, 2009, by voice vote.  The Senate approved the bill with an amendment on September 27, 2010, by unanimous consent. 

Bill Summary

Classified Information Advisory Officer:  The bill would designate a Classified Information Advisory Officer in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist state, local, tribal, and private sector entities that have responsibility for the security of critical infrastructure, in matters related to classified materials.  This Officer would be responsible for developing and disseminating training programs and materials to educate these entities on procedures for challenging improper classification and applying for security clearances.  This Officer would also assist state, local and tribal entities with developing plans and policies for the use of classified information, including ways to communicate those plans and policies to non-cleared personnel without disclosing classified information.  The Officer would also advise the DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis on policies and procedures to facilitate information sharing.

Promotion of Appropriate Access to Information:  The bill would reinforce the authority of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to have maximum access to all information within the intelligence community, including intelligence reports and operational data, and require that the DNI then ensure maximum access to all such information, consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, to appropriately-cleared individuals in federal, state, local and tribal governments.  The bill also would require that the DNI establish a mechanism to provide individuals from such entities with access to this information.

Intelligence Information Sharing:  The bill includes three provisions intended to improve the sharing of intelligence information with state, local and tribal governments and law enforcement agencies:

Standardized formats for intelligence products—The bill would require the DNI to establish guidance to standardize formats for classified and unclassified finished intelligence products created by elements of the intelligence community for purposes of promoting the sharing of intelligence products.

Portion marking of intelligence products—The bill would direct the DNI to promulgate guidance to require the increased use of portion markings, by which individual sections of a product are marked with their classification level, allowing them to be easily redacted when necessary and thereby allowing sections of the product to be disseminated at a lower classification level when appropriate.

Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group dissemination process—The bill would give a new role to the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG), an entity created by Congress in 2007 designed to assist state, local, tribal law enforcement, homeland security, and private sector personnel in accessing and understanding federal counterterrorism, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction intelligence reporting.  The bill would require the head of each federal department or agency with classification authority to share an intelligence product with ITACG if he or she determines that it could benefit a state, local, or tribal government, law enforcement agency, or private sector entity. 

Promotion of Accurate Classification of Intelligence:  The bill would direct federal departments and agencies, when making personnel decisions, to consider whether employees are classifying information properly.  The bill would also require Inspectors General each year through 2014 to assess whether their agencies are appropriately following and administering applicable classification policies, procedures, rules, and regulations.

Classification Training Program:  Finally, the bill would require annual training for each employee or contractor who has classification authority or is responsible for analysis, dissemination, preparation, production, receiving, publishing or otherwise communicating written classified information.  


Among its recommendations in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission found a need to eliminate the over-classification of intelligence information by the federal government.  The Commissioners found in their report that pseudo- and over-classification may interfere with the sharing of critical intelligence information between the federal government and state, local, and tribal partners regarding homeland security efforts.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the measure would cost $22 million over five years.