Senberger said one reason for the delay is funding. Spending last year on declassification across the government, excluding intelligence agencies, was $52.8 million, according to the Information Security Oversight Office, the agency that oversees the classification system. That was less than 1 percent of the budget for classifying material, which rose 12 percent year-over-year, to $11.36 billion.
Although the declassification effort appears certain to miss its deadline, the volume of material being classified jumped 20 percent in 2011. The oversight office cited better record-keeping as a reason for the recent increases.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said The Post’s FOIA analysis shows that the administration “can be credited or blamed for agency performance only up to a certain point, and no further.”
“It’s all part of a larger picture that warrants attention,” he said. “The NDC piece of it is particularly noteworthy as they were assigned a job by the president, and it looks like they’re not going to complete it, which is a shocking development, or it ought to be.”
Others were more critical. Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the administration has failed to live up to its promises to deliver transparent government.
“I think that in the first months, President Obama and his administration took some very important and historic steps to provide transparency,” she said. “The reality is that governments generally have a tendency to secrecy, and after initially pledging a new era of transparency, the Obama administration has backtracked in critically important areas. . . . I think it has sent a message through government into the country that is quite disturbing about valuing secrecy in the national security context over transparency.”
Shamsi added: “We recognize that there are genuine instances in which secrecy is both legitimate and necessary. . . . But claims that are too broad in their sweep undermine the very system itself.”