A round-up of the news, security clearance policies, and government updates of 2013.

January

DOD CAF Consolidation—Operational consolidation of 7 of the 11 DOD Central Adjudication Facilities (CAFs) that began in August 2012 was completed in January.  The CAFs had physically co-located in a new building on Fort Meade, MD in summer 2011.  This consolidation affected the Army, Navy, Air Force, Joint Chief of Staff, Washington Headquarters Services, and parts of the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA).  The new agency was designated the DOD Consolidated Adjudication Facility (DODCAF).

February

NISPPAC Report— National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee’s (NISPPAC) posted its November 2012 meeting report on the Information Security Oversight Office’s (ISOO) website. Two noteworthy items from the meeting were:

  • Some intelligence community (IC) members are now using the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) for submitting their Periodic Reinvestigations.
  • Receipt of favorable FBI Criminal History Report will added to the requirements for interim Secret clearance eligibility.  This will add about two to three weeks to interim Secret clearance eligibility determinations, which currently take about 3 days for NISP cases. This is essentially the same standard that currently exists for granting interim Top Secret clearances.

Implementation of New Federal Investigative Standards (FIS)—In a February 14, 2013 memorandum the Director of Security at the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD-I) stated that implementation of the new FIS approved in December 2012 is not expected until FY 2015 or later. Therefore, until further notice, DOD components are not required to begin submitting SECRET-Level periodic reinvestigations requests every five years as required by the new FIS.  Details regarding the new FIS have not been made public.

Air Force and Navy Limit Requests for SSBI-PRs—The Air Force indefinitely suspended the submission of requests for Periodic Reinvestigations (PRs) for Top Secret clearances due to an estimated $50 million shortfall in their FY2013 Personnel Security Investigation budget. In a 13 February 2013 memo the Air Force explained that the suspension did not apply to personnel assigned to certain sensitive positions. The Air Force previously suspended Top Secret PRs from April to September 2012 for the same reason.  The Navy issued a similar memo on 27 February 2013.

Biennial Report to Congress on Improving Industrial Security—The Defense Security Service (DSS) issued its report to Congress on industrial security funding, manpower, trends, accomplishments, assessments, and other statistical data related to DSS’s responsibilities for FY2011 and FY2012.

March

Proposed Changes to SF86—The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) posted a 60 day notice and request for comments for proposed changes to the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (Standard Form 86—SF86).  One of the proposed changes would completely rewrite Question 21—Psychological and Emotional Health. The new question would read:

In the last seven (7) years, have you had a mental health condition that would cause an objective observer to have concern about your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness in relation to your work?

PSMO-I—DSS announced its plan to stand up a Personnel Security Management Office for Industry.   Not all elements of the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) were consolidated into the Industrial Division of DODCAF.  PSMO-I will be responsible for front-end processing of personnel security clearances for contractor personnel formerly handled by DISCO, including interim security clearance determinations.

April

Change to SF86 Mental Health Question—OPM issued Federal Investigations Notice No. 13-02 revising the instructions to the mental health question in its Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) version of the Standard Form 86 (SF86).  Effective April 14, 2013, the SF86 in e-QIP now displays the following additional instructions at Question 21:

“Victims of sexual assault who have consulted with the health care professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition during this period strictly in relation to the sexual assault are instructed to answer ‘No’.”

ODNI Security Clearance Report—The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its “2012 Report on Security Clearance Determinations.”  The report provided statistical data on the number of security clearances, processing times, and denial/revocation rates.

May

NISPPAC Report—NISPPAC posted the report of its March 2013 meeting on the ISOO  website.  The report included statistics from OPM, DSS, ODNI, and the Department of Energy (DOE) on industrial security clearance processing.  Four significant pending changes to federal personnel security policy were mentioned in the report:

  • Revised Federal Investigative Standards
  • Revised Adjudicative Guidelines
  • New National Reporting Requirements
  • New Polygraph Policy

DSS Temporarily Suspends Top Secret PRs—DSS announced suspension of PRs for Top Secret clearance of contractor personnel from 14 June to 30 September 2013 due to funding shortfalls.  This followed similar action by the Air Force and Navy in February.

OPM Federal Investigative Services (FIS) Report—OPM released the FIS Annual Stakeholder Report for Fiscal Year 2012.   The report provided an overview of the history, organization, staffing, mission, training, and accomplishments of the FIS Division of OPM, including statistical data on the services it performs for other federal agencies.

June

NSA PRISM Leak Source Identified—Edward Snowden was identified as the source of the classified information leaked to The Guardian newspaper regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program known as PRISM.

Senate Committee Hearing on Security Clearance—On June 20, 2013 the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on “Safeguarding Our Nation’s Secrets: Examining the Security Clearance Process.”  The hearing was prompted by Edward Snowden’s unauthorized disclosure of classified information on the NSA PRISM program.  During the hearing it was disclosed that OPM began an investigation in late 2011 on a “complicated contract fraud case” involving the US Investigative Service’s (USIS) failure to properly review completed investigations before submitting them to OPM.  USIS is the largest provider of personnel security investigations to the Government and was the company that conducted the last security clearance investigation on Edward Snowden.  It was also disclosed that an audit has never been conducted on the billion dollar revolving FIS fund administered by OPM and used to pay for personnel security investigations.

Federal Investigations Notice No. 13-05—OPM announced that effective 1 October 2013 it would no longer accept paper copies of Standard Forms 85, 85P, and 85PS, which are used for federal employment suitability, fitness, and credentialing investigations.  All requests for investigation on and after that date will have to be submitted to OPM via the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP).  OPM stopped accepting paper copies of Standard Form 86 for National Security Positions in October 2011.

July

Two Security Clearance Bills Introduced in Congress—The “Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement” Act (S 1276) was introduced in the Senate, and the “OPM IG” Act (HR 2860) was introduced in the House of Representatives.  Both bills will authorize the OPM Inspector General’s office to use of up to 0.33% of the billion dollar OPM FIS revolving fund to perform audits of the fund.

New SF 312—The “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” Standard Form 312 (SF 312), was revised by ODNI to reflect language required by two new statutes; 2011 Public Law 112-74 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act and 2012 Public Law 112-199 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).

August

Kaplan v. Conyers—The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988), prohibits Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) review of actions involving security clearance, as well as sensitive national security position determinations. The court reversed the MSPB and held that the Egan limitations apply to MSPB review of agency determinations concerning eligibility of an employee to occupy a “sensitive” position, regardless of whether the position requires access to classified information.

Subpoenas Issued to Former USIS Officials—A federal grand jury issued subpoenas to former officials of US Investigations Services LLC (USIS), the largest provider of personnel security investigations to the U.S. Government.  The grand jury was investigating whether USIS improperly submitted investigations to OPM without first performing a required review of the cases, a practice known inside USIS as “flushing” or “dumping.”  Allegations about the firm’s practices surfaced in 2011 when a fired USIS manager approached federal investigators.

Federal Investigations Notice No. 13-07—OPM released their new billing rate for investigative products for FY2014.   Prices for three of their major products (MBI, ANACI, and SSBI-PR) increased, but prices for five of their major products (NACI, NACLC, BI, PPR, and SSBI) decreased.

September

Washington Navy Yard Shooter—Numerous articles appeared in the news of media regarding Aaron Alexis, the Government contractor who murdered 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.  Many of these news articles focused on Alexis’ Secret security clearance and the failure of the Government to uncover his past encounters with law enforcement and his mental health problems.  Because of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, President Obama directed OMB to review the policy for granting security clearances “for contractors and employees across federal agencies.”  The Secretary of Defense also ordered a thorough review of security at U.S. military bases around the world.

DODCAF Employment Suitability/Fitness and CAC Determinations—DODCAF became responsible for the initial review of investigations for DOD employment suitability, employment fitness, and Common Access Card (CAC) determinations.  DODCAF now exercises responsibility for favorable adjudications of personnel security investigations that do not involve eligibility for access to classified national security information.  If DODCAF is unable to make a favorable determination, a notation of “No Determination Made” is entered into the individual’s record and the case is forwarded to the requesting agency for adjudication.

Unpaid Federal Tax Debt of Cleared Personnel—GAO reported (GAO-13-733) that “About 8,400 individuals adjudicated as eligible for a security clearance from April 2006 to December 2011 owed approximately $85 million in unpaid federal taxes, as of June 2012. This represents about 3.4 percent of the civilian executive branch employees and contractors who were favorably adjudicated during that period. . . .  There is no process to detect unpaid federal tax debts accrued after an individual has been favorably adjudicated unless it is self-reported, reported by a security manager due to garnishment of wages, or discovered during a clearance renewal or upgrade.”

October

U.S. Investigations Services LLC—The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was intervening in a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit against U.S. Investigations Services LLC (USIS).  The lawsuit alleged that USIS had failed to perform quality control reviews in connection with its background investigations pursuant to a contract with OPM.  It further alleged that in 2008 USIS began engaging in a practice referred to internally as “dumping.” A USIS computer program would automatically release background investigations to OPM that had not gone through the full review process.  This was done in order to meet revenue targets and maximize profits. The initial qui tam lawsuit was brought by a former USIS employee.

Another Senate Committee Hearing—The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on “The Navy Yard Tragedy: Examining Government Clearances and Background Checks.”  Representatives of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the General Accountability Office (GAO), USD-I, OPM and ODNI gave testimony before the committee.  The hearing brought out some information on the stalled security clearance reform effort that began in 2007.

NISPPAC Report—NISPPAC posted the report of its July 2013 meeting on the ISOO website.  The report included statistics from OPM, DSS, ODNI, and the Department of Energy (DOE) on industrial security clearance processing.

The Director of the DoD CAF reported that, “due to the large backlog of industrial cases, the CAF is in the process of blending the work of the adjudicators from the former Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) into a single division.  He noted that the goal is to have a significant reduction in the adjudication backlog over the next two years. . . . [P]revious estimates that the backlog would be eliminated by May of 2014 are now unrealistic, and that based on current budget constraints, the complete elimination of the backlog will take approximately two years.”

Industrial Security Clearance Backlog—PSMO-I resumed submission of security clearance requests to OPM after a 3 week furlough.  The backlog of industrial security clearances increased due to the government shutdown during the first 3 weeks in October and a flood of Top Secret PR requests following a 105-day moratorium.

DOD Inspector General Finds Deficiencies in the Navy’s RapidGate Program—The DOD Inspector General (DODIG Report 2013-134) found the US Navy’s RapidGate Program to be deficient and not in compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

November

House Committee Chair Issues Subpoena to OPM—The chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a subpoena to OPM to compel it to turn over internal security clearance policies, training materials and other guidelines. Three letters had been sent to OPM requesting the information, but OPM failed to produce the requested documents.  The subpoena also seeks documents pertaining to OPM contracts with USIS, CACI International Inc., and Keypoint Government Solutions, Inc.

House Subcommittee Hearing—A House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence held a hearing on “The Insider Threat to Homeland Security: Examining Our Nation’s Security Clearance Processes.”  Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), OPM, ODNI, and GAO gave testimony before the subcommittee. An ODNI representative provided testimony about current clearance reform initiatives, including improvements to “Continuous Evaluation (CE)” that would allow for a review at any time to ensure that that cleared individuals continue to meet the requirements for eligibility.

And Another Senate Hearing—The Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workplace held a hearing on “Safeguarding Our Nation’s Secrets:  Examining the National Security Workforce.”  Representatives of OPM, ODNI, GAO, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the Project on Government Oversight gave testimony before the subcommittee.  The hearing focused on standardizing criteria for national security position sensitivity designations.

December

Deadline for SWFT Implementation—December 31, 2013 marked the deadline for implementing electronic fingerprint submissions using the Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission (SWFT) system for all DOD security clearance requests. 

 

All Original Material Copyright © 2014 Federal Clearance Assistance Service. All rights reserved.

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William H. Henderson is a retired federal clearance investigator, President of Federal Clearance Assistance Service (FEDCAS), author of Security Clearance Manual, Issue Mitigation Handbook, and a regular contributor to ClearanceJobsBlog.com and ClearanceJobs.com.