Federal Security Clearances

Federal Security Clearances

House Oversight Investigation

On February 11, Rep. Darrell Issa's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published a staff report entitled, "Slipping Through the Cracks: How the D.C. Navy Yard Shooting Exposes Flaws in the Federal Security Clearance Process."  In the report, the Committee reviews findings and recommendations from its investigation of the clearance review process conducted following the September 16, 2013, shooting by a security clearance holder at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard.  The Committee identifies five potential legislative improvements to the clearance review process:

  • Continuous evaluation of the clearance holder;
  • Incorporating Internet and social media sources into the review;
  • Strengthening communication between adjudicators and investigators;
  • Increasing mental health evaluations; and
  • Increasing cooperation from state and local law enforcement.

The report's release coincided with a Committee hearing on the topic, officially entitled, "DC Navy Yard Shooting: Fixing the Security Clearance Process."  Witnesses included:

  • Sterling Phillips, CEO, U.S. Investigations Services;
  • Katherine Archuleta, Director, Office of Personnel Management;
  • Patrick McFarland, Inspector General, Office of Personnel Management;
  • Stephen Lewis, Deputy Director for Personnel, Industrial and Physical Security Policy, Counterintelligence and Security Directorate, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence;
  • Michael Rhodes, Executive Vice President, Mission Systems and Services Business Group, CACI International; and
  • Susan Ordakowski, Vice President, Contracts and Compliance, KeyPoint Government Solutions.

Security Clearance Reform Act of 2013

On February 10, the day before the Oversight Committee's hearing and report release, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced H.R. 4022, the "Security Clearance Reform Act of 2013," which would "provide for a strategic plan to reform and improve the security clearance and background investigation process of the federal government."  The bill would require the president to complete a strategic plan improving clearance reviews, including by:

  • Establishing continuous evaluation, including "federal, state, and local government and commercially available information, including financial credit history, currency transactions, court records, traffic violations, arrest records, terrorist and criminal watch lists, foreign travel, and online social media";
  • Developing "procedures that ensure that any information collected pursuant to the plan with respect to a covered individual, including information collected from online social media, shall be verified for authenticity";
  • Increasing "the use of digitally processed fingerprints as a substitute for ink or paper prints to reduce error rates and improve portability of data";
  • Developing "federal government-wide performance measures"; and
  • Requiring that a federal employee conduct the final quality or integrity assurance review and the investigation of any individual eligible for a clearance at the Top Secret level or higher.

The bill would prohibit OPM from awarding a contract for either investigative support or background investigative fieldwork if the contractor already has a contract with OPM for the other.  The bill was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as well as the Committee on the Judiciary

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