Cleared Congressional Round-Up: The week’s latest from Congress on legislation, hearings and oversight affecting those in the cleared world

Defense Appropriations Stall in Senate

The Senate delayed passage of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, likely postponing its completion until December.

The bill authorizes more than $625 billion in defense spending for the Pentagon, along with some unique measures for FY2014 – a one percent pay raise for services members, new protections for victims of sexual assault, a cap compensation for contractor employees at $487,000 annually and reforms the security clearance process, are all included.

The Senate voted 51-44 not to end debate on the bill shortly before adjourning for a two-week Thanksgiving recess.  The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he was “not even close to giving up, frankly.”

Obama Urges Senate to Back Off Clearance Reforms

The White House issued a statement of administration policy on Tuesday asking the Senate to refrain from passing its reforms to the security clearance process.

In September, President Obama ordered the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete a 120-day, inter-agency review of contractor fitness determinations.  The administration is now asking Congress to hold off on any legislating to change the process until OMB has completed its review.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 currently being considered in the Senate – although   unlikely to be passed until December – contains reforms to the clearance process such as an “enhanced security clearance system” to aggregate and store each applicant’s personal information, and a required review of the cleared individual at least two times every five years.

Senators, ODNI Debate “Sensitive” v. “Cleared” Positions

Wednesday the Senate Homeland Security Committee questioned how federal positions are designated as “national security sensitive” – meaning positions with access to information with a potentially adverse effect on national security but that do not require a security clearance.

Currently, federal agencies individually designate which positions require a security clearance, following guidance from executive orders and federal regulations.  This leads to concerns of inconsistency and implementation by agencies.

In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) jointly proposed regulations to improve the position designation process.  An ODNI official defended the proposed rule at Wednesday’s hearing, saying it is “not intended to increase the number of national security sensitive positions within the Federal government,” and is necessary for the process’ uniformity of application.

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