National Archives Launches Initial CUI Registry
by Gavin Baker, 11/4/2011
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today launched the initial registry of controlled unclassified information (CUI) categories that agencies can use to safeguard sensitive but unclassified information. President Obama called for the registry in his executive order on CUI, which he signed one year ago today.
When fully implemented, the categories listed in the CUI registry will be the only labels that agencies can use to identify unclassified information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls. This will limit the proliferation of such categories. Over the years, the haphazard expansion in the number of categories has resulted in confusion as well as the creation of unjustified labels, such as "For Official Use Only (FOUO)." This, in turn, stymied public access and information sharing.
The initial registry comprises 15 categories, in addition to their sub-categories. These categories of information, while unclassified, are deemed to warrant safeguarding – such as storage on a secure server – or conditions on dissemination – such as limitations on information sharing between agencies. According to the executive order, CUI categories have no bearing on decisions about public disclosure.
Agencies are required to submit their plans to implement the new categories to NARA by Dec. 6.
That implementation, however, is unlikely to begin soon. While the initial registry lists each category's description and authorizing law, regulation, or government-wide policy, it does not yet list the safeguards that each category will require. NARA also has not yet determined how agencies will mark documents containing CUI, how long each category will be subject to controls, or how information will be decontrolled. Until those crucial pieces are completed, implementation cannot begin.
Nevertheless, today's launch gives a sense of the categories that will be in use once the new system is operational, as well as how the registry will function. OMB Watch will publish a more detailed analysis in the Nov. 8 issue of The Watcher.