Speculation about taking DNA samples appeared over at Politico.com this week, where they unpacked a Federal Register report discussion about the possibility of using DNA testing as a part of the applicant screening process. DNA testing, it was noted, could be used in the same way fingerprints are currently, and be checked against criminal investigations using DNA evidence.
“The Federal Government is looking into the feasibility of using biometric identifiers other than fingerprints in the security clearance process,” the Pentagon said. It was also quick to point out that any DNA collection would be covered in a separate rule-making (and I’m guessing it would also include a lot of very friendly back and forth with federal employee labor unions, the ACLU, and other interested parties).
ADVANCED BIOMETRICS AND YOUR SECURITY CLEARANCE
It’s not shocking that advanced biometrics are under consideration. Clearance applicants are already asked to provide fingerprints as a part of the process (a process which only went electronic this past year). The federal government does not necessarily play by the same employment rules as the private sector, particularly when it comes to security clearance applicants.
But there are definitely a few very significant barriers to using DNA testing as a part of the clearance process. The first is cost. Uncle Sam is still attempting to figure out where it will get the millions it needs for continuous monitoring and evaluation of its cleared workforce. The millions needed for DNA collection are definitely not floating around, just waiting to be spent.
There’s also the problem of technology. As noted above, electronic fingerprint capture was only mandated this year (hence, most security-cleared personnel will have memories of getting their hands dirty with the ink and paper system). The technology for the collection and oversight of more advanced biometrics is certainly not possible with the personnel process in place today.
And while security-cleared personnel are not granted the same legal protections as the rest of the workforce, there are certainly a number of legal pitfalls. Other companies who have attempted DNA collection as a part of their application process have come up against both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Will you need to pony up DNA at your next reinvestigation? Highly unlikely. But the speculation proves that current security clearance reform debate is focusing on the possible, much more than it is the probable (or fund-able).