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Department of Defense News Release
Reference Number: No. 468-96

August 8, 1996



After reengineering its process to quickly and efficiently chisel away at mountains of classified documents, the Air Force Declassification Team will receive Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Award at a Pentagon ceremony Aug. 9, 1996.

The Hammer Award is Vice President Gore's special recognition to teams that have made significant contributions to support the president's National Performance Review principles -- putting customers first, cutting red tape, empowering employees and getting back to basics.

The award honors the team's creativity in improving declassification policies and decision-making processes, and doing so in a timely, high-quality and low-cost manner. This paved the way for the volumes of work that lie ahead.

The declassification team was created in 1989 and was initially composed of Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members assigned to the administrative assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. Their job was to devise a declassification plan to release official Air Force documents to Congress and the public. The original team reinvented declassification decision making by creating the Air Force's first computer-based declassification guide. The guide enables trained declassifiers to quickly review, coordinate and, if appropriate, declassify information in record time

The team first tackled classified documents from the Vietnam era. In 1992, came the added challenge of reviewing records of prisoners of war and those missing in action. Later, the team reviewed and declassified Gulf War documents.

On April 17, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12958, which prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding and declassifying national defense information. The declassification team has expanded into a task force that includes representatives from the Air Force offices of public affairs, history, chief of security police and the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

During the initial review of about 6 million pages of Air Force records, the team created a streamlined process to effectively implement the executive order. Since the order was signed, the team has amassed a large collection of classification guides, transformed them into electronic media for on-line use, and authored an electronic declassification guide that incorporates Air Force documents dating from 1947 to 1975.

The team has also worked with the Air Force Extension Course Institute at Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., to design a computer- based declassification training course open to all military and federal civilian employees.

Since the Hammer Award is the vice president's answer to yesterday's $600 hammer, the award consists of a $6 hammer, a little ribbon and a card from Gore, all in an aluminum frame. The award recognizes new standards of excellence achieved by teams helping to reinvent government.

The award will be presented tomorrow, Aug. 9, 1996 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) in the Pentagon Auditorium, Room 5A1070. Media wishing to cover the ceremony should contact Maj. Cecily Christian, (703) 695-0640.


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