Real-time notifications and mandatory disclosures from state law enforcement agencies are among Congress’ latest stab at security clearance reform.
The “Security Clearance Reform Act of 2014,” introduced last week by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), includes provisions not unlike previous clearance reform proposals discussed by Congress last year:
- a continuous behavior monitoring system that incorporates local government and commercially-available information on cleared individuals, and
- required disclosures between the feds and local authorities.
One notable difference, however, is cutting security clearance contractors and instead mandating that critical investigative functions – including Top Secret level investigations – be performed by federal employees alone.
State Criminal History Disclosures
The investigation into how Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was able to obtain a clearance despite his history of arrests exposed breakdowns the background check process.
When Alexis failed to disclose a prior arrest in Seattle, background investigators were unable to obtain a copy of the police report from the Seattle Police Department. Likewise, the information available on the courts database did not include details of the arrest.
H.R. 4022 would require State or local law enforcement agencies to immediately provide criminal history record information upon federal request. The requirement has real teeth, too – local criminal justice agencies who fail to respond will be docked in federal funding.
The infrequency of cleared individuals’ re-examination is another failure in the investigation process. And it’s not enough to reduce reinvestigation periods from five years to three – the government demands real-time notifications.
“The federal government’s current background investigation process does not pick up events that arise in the interim period between a cleared individual’s initial investigation and periodic reinvestigation,” said Congressman Lynch.
“H.R. 4022 would implement a continuous evaluation and monitoring system across the federal government so that we can immediately identify and address significant red flags that arise in a security clearance holder’s background.”
Background Investigations insourced
Intense scrutiny of background investigator conduct followed the Justice Department’s complaint of fraud against one of the government’s largest contactors late last year. The suit alleges U.S. Investigative Services, Inc. filed at least 665,000 flawed background checks over a five-year period – roughly 40 percent of its total submissions.
Other instances of background investigator misconduct have been documented in recent years as well.
“In light of these allegations regarding extended waste, fraud, and abuse in security clearance contracting, it is imperative that we bring key background investigative work back into the federal government,” said Congressman Lynch. “My legislation will ensure that federal employees, rather than outside contractors, perform critical investigative functions, including Top Secret Clearance level investigations.”
Additionally, the Office of Personnel Management would be prohibited from awarding a contract for investigative support services or background investigation fieldwork to a company already engaged in a contract with the federal government.
If passed, H.R. 4022 requires a strategic plan for implementation of these measures be submitted to Congress within six months, and full execution of the project within a year from submission.