Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Expanded Beyond the ISE

In November 2010, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13556: Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) to standardize the way the Executive Branch handles information that requires protection but is not classified. This action expanded CUI beyond the ISE – and directs that the “CUI categories and subcategories shall serve as exclusive designations for identifying unclassified information throughout the executive branch that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls, pursuant to and consistent with applicable law, regulations, and government-wide policies.”

The President is committed to making government more open to the American people, as outlined in the Open Government memorandum to the heads of Executive departments and agencies. At the same time, it has long been recognized that important purposes require the government to protect some information pursuant to and consistent with applicable law, regulations, and government-wide policies.

There are currently more than 100 different policies and markings for such information across the Executive Branch. This ad hoc, agency-specific approach has created inefficiency and confusion, leading to a patchwork system that fails to adequately safeguard information requiring protection, and unnecessarily restricts information sharing by creating needless impediments.

The CUI executive order designated the National Archives and Records Administration as the Executive Agent for CUI. In this role, the National Archives has the authority and responsibility to oversee and manage the implementation of the CUI Program. All current activities related to the CUI Executive Order and implementation efforts can be found at the National Archives. Questions regarding CUI and implementation of the Executive Order should be directed there.

CUI and the ISE

On December 16, 2005, the President issued a Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the Guidelines and Requirements in Support of the Information Sharing Environment. Guideline 3 of this memorandum included Presidential direction to federal departments and agencies to recommend standardized SBU procedures for terrorism-related information.

To complete these recommendations, the PM-ISE led a committee that included senior-level representatives from across the ISE agencies. The committee received input from the National Archives and Records Administration, the Information Security Oversight Office, the Controlled Access Program Coordination Office, the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, State, local and tribal partners and the Private Sector.

In late 2007, the Committee submitted recommendations to the President for a new CUI Framework and a new CUI Office to be housed at the National Archives. And on May 7, 2008, President Bush signed a memorandum that adopted “CUI” as the single designator for all Sensitive But Unclassified information in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) and designated the National Archives and Records Administration as the Executive Agent.

In 2009, President Obama established a Task Force on CUI to reexamine the concept and generate recommendations as to whether and how to reform existing practices. PM-ISE participated in the Task Force which was led by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Task Force released a report in December 2009 that provided the basis for the President’s most recent Executive Order. The primary recommendation was for a single, standardized framework for marking, safeguarding and disseminating SBU information across the Federal Government, not merely terrorism information.

Learn more about the chronology and milestones of CUI’s development.