Department of State’s Contractor Review Panel

Security Clearance

A recent query to ClearanceJobs asked “What is a Security Clearance Contract Review Panel?”  The query set off a bit of sleuthing into the annals of government policy. The term Contractor Review Panel (CRP), is unique to the Department of State (DOS). Each government agency/department handles the processing of the security clearances associated with contract employees a bit different, and the Department of State (DOS) is no exception. They created the CRP to assist the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) in handling the determination of contract personnel suitability.

CRP authorities

Within the Foreign Affairs Manual (the regulatory bible within the DOS) is where one finds the first reference to the CRP. Specifically, 12 FAM 232.3  Matters Bearing on Employment Suitability, sub-paras c and d address contractor suitability.

  • c.  When DS becomes aware of circumstances that bear on suitability for contract performance relating to a contractor applicant for a Department-issued clearance or public trust certification, the matter will be referred to the chair of the Contractor Review Panel (CRP) for a suitability determination:
    • (1)  Should the CRP find the applicant unsuitable, DS/SI/IND will notify the contracting officer’s representative (COR), who will notify the contracting firm that the applicant must be removed from contract performance; and
    • (2)  If the CRP finds the applicant suitable, DS/SI/PSS will proceed with the security clearance or public trust certification.
  • d. When DS becomes aware of circumstances relating to a contractor employee that bear on suitability for continued contract performance, DS will initiate a re-evaluation of its security determination based on the developed information and/or coordinate with the appropriate COR regarding the best way to proceed.

Not all positions within the DOS require a security clearance, and thus the “public trust determination” is used within the DOS for those contractors in sensitive positions, which are not exposed to national security information.

Public Trust Determination

An example of this is explained in a 2012 FAQ “Security Clearances for Language Services’ Contractors” In the language school example, only staffers and contractors working as conference level translators or interpreters require a national security clearance.  All others are subject to a security review, to determine their suitability to work on “sensitive assignments which do not involve access to national security information.”

Those familiar with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) will notice the similarity in the data points are used by DS in determining suitability.

  • Is the person really the individual he or she claims to be?
  • Does the individual have a criminal record or a history of unstable or inappropriate behavior?
  • Does the individual pay his/her bills and have a good credit rating – particularly with respect to the payment of all federal, state and local taxes as well as repayment of any outstanding loans from public funds? Any outstanding payments due and owing the IRS? You must have these matters documented that they have been cleared up or it is being negotiated by the IRS.
  • Is your spouse, or if you live with someone in a spouse-like relationship, a US citizen?

In sum, if DS sees an issue which would bear on the suitability of a given contractor to participate in a specific contract, DS refers the issue to their Contractor Review Panel for adjudication.

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).