Department of Energy's Activities To Limit Distribution of Certain Unclassified Scientific and Technical Information

RCED-84-129: Published: Mar 30, 1984. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined policies and practices used by the Department of Energy (DOE) to limit the distribution of certain unclassified information. GAO: (1) determined the rationale and legal authority for limiting the distribution of unclassified information; (2) examined DOE program guidance for limiting information dissemination; (3) reviewed controls used by DOE to protect information that has been designated for limited distribution; and (4) compared DOE guidance and controls over unclassified information with similar controls at other Federal agencies.

GAO found that, in fiscal years 1981 through 1983, DOE collected about 96,000 unclassified documents and limited the distribution of about 6,600 to the Federal Government and its contractors. DOE limits unclassified information because the information involves: (1) nuclear safety; (2) proprietary data; and (3) technology that has foreign trade value. DOE authority for limiting information dissemination comes from the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, patent laws, and the Trade Secrets Act. DOE was also attempting to strengthen its authority to limit the distribution of information having foreign trade value. The primary method used by DOE to control information dissemination is to prevent the existence of limited information from becoming known outside of the Government. Physical and computerized controls are also used. DOE has issued its own guidance for the control of limited information; this guidance is similar to that used by other Federal agencies.

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