The Manhattan Project Resources

U.S. Department of Energy logos U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security Office of History and Heritage Resources



Terms of Reference


The purpose of the Openness Advisory Panel (Panel) is to provide advice to the Secretary regarding the current status and strategic direction for the Department's classification and declassification policies and programs, as well as other aspects of th e Department's ongoing Openness Initiative. The Panel's work will help institutionalize the Department's Openness Initiative.

The Panel's principal goal is to enhance the credibility of the Department's classification, declassification and openness programs through rigorous, independent scrutiny of current policies and vigorous advocacy for improvements. The Panel also will assist the Department in bringing sharpened focus to both the strengths and weaknesses of current classification, declassification and openness policies and ensuring speedy resolution of major issues and problems.

Finally, the Panel will facilitate application of best business practices in the management of the Department's classification, declassification and openness programs, so as to maximize both program effectiveness and public accountability, and will dev elop recommendations for the Secretary regarding changes in the size, missions, scope, direction and emphasis of these programs. In carrying out these responsibilities, the Panel will provide:

  • An independent evaluation of all DOE policies and procedures relating to enhancing public trust and confidence in the Department and its programs, with special emphasis on classification, declassification and openness policies;

  • Advice and recommendations to the Department on major classification, declassification and other openness issues, especially those of particular interest to the public;

  • A forum, at public meetings of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), in which the Department's stakeholders may discuss the Department's policies and programs with Board members and senior DOE officials; and

  • A vehicle for establishing task forces for specific aspects of the Openness Initiative, as recommended by the Board or otherwise deemed necessary by the Secretary.

The Panel responds to current Administration policy and Department of Energy leadership which recognize that government openness fosters confidence among the public and other stakeholders by assuring the free flow of information between governmental bo dies and the public. By establishing readily understandable policies and procedures which facilitate information availability, stakeholders are assured accessibility to information without compromising nationalsecurity. By debating such policies in publ ic to the maximum extent practicable, stakeholders can verify and validate the Department's success in affording appropriate public access to its policies and programs.

The primary focus of the Panel will be on those classification, declassification and related policy issues relating to nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, and other issues of particular interest to DOE stakeholders, including those issues potentially r elating to public health and safety and/or environmental quality.


The Panel will be comprised of approximately twelve (12) members appointed by the Secretary from among the members of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) and other appropriate experts and members of the public.

Panel members will be appointed for staggered terms to provide continuity through changes of Presidential administrations. The Panel will be chaired by a member selected by the Secretary and will constitute a standing panel of the SEAB.


The Panel will focus on issues of primary interest to the public and on measures to ensure the Department remains responsive to public policy needs and continues to foster confidence with the public and the Congress. In the discharge of this responsib ility, the Panel will provide advice and recommendations to the Department, through the SEAB, with regard to:

  • Appropriate balance between national security interests and the public's access to information;

  • Significant classification, declassification, openness and other public policy issues, including assuring the development and implementation of clearly stated and easily understood policies governing classification and declassification of informat ion and documents;

  • Strategic direction for the Department's classification, declassification and openness programs;

  • Results of analyses and other studies by the Panel of classification, declassification and openness policies and procedures, with special emphasis on ensuring that the Department's classification, declassification and openness programs remain resp onsive to national security requirements and public policy needs;

  • Actions, including priorities for the declassification of Restricted Data, FormerlyRestricted Data and National Security Information;

  • Cost-containment, including ensuring application of best business practices and addressing resource impacts of administrative and regulatory requirements;

  • Initiatives by the Department to enhance its reputation for honesty, integrity and fair dealing with the public, the Congress and others regarding all aspects of the Department's programs, with particular emphasis on classification, declassificati on and openness policies and programs; and

  • Other matters which may be assigned to the Panel by the Secretary or SEAB.


The Panel shall report as required to the Secretary, through the SEAB, on its activities, findings, recommendations, plans and other relevant matters. Such reports should assess progress and management initiatives by the Department and its programs in meeting goals in areas such as national security, public accountability, productivity improvement, progress toward completion of declassification review commitments and other programmatic accomplishments.


The Panel will meet at the call of the Chair, but not less than three times per year. Minutes of meetings will be recorded and an unclassified version will be published and made available to the public. Consistent with national security requirements, meetings will be open to the public to the maximum extent feasible.


The Office of Classification and the SEAB staff shall provide integrated staff support to the Panel. Duties shall include agenda and meeting preparation, development of issue and background papers and follow-up actions.

Office of Classification Initiatives