Right now, the Continuous Evaluation (CE) program for security clearances is the Wild West, and will remain that way until the Office of the Director of National Intelligence codifies a solid policy and plan, and until the new software tracking and running this stuff is completed and deployed (and the old software updated for the new regime). The good news? Just yesterday a contract was awarded for the newly created Department of Defense Vetting Risk Operations Center. But while we wait for policy to be codified and contracts to be implemented, there is a lot of confusion out there.
First, what is CE? In short, it is a new way for the government to handle the business of clearances and adjudications. The old way is broken. No matter what the law mandates or whom members of congress shout at, delays in security clearance processing times just won’t go away. And workers continue to filter through the system with issues not caught by the traditional background investigation process. This keeps the gears of the defense and intelligence communities in a perpetual grind, with employees unable to do the jobs for which they were hired, and government and industry struggling to keep pace with the work they have in front of them.
To lighten the investigation workload, you can’t just make clearances easier to get, or keep. (That would defeat the purpose of clearances!) The solution can be found only in the investigation process itself. As it turns out, a big part of the backlog involves the reinvestigation of cleared workers. A security clearance investigation is only current for five, ten, or fifteen years depending on the level and position. Which means every five years (or multiple thereof), some investigator has to pull a worker’s file, open it up, and start digging in. This wouldn’t be so bad if every cleared worker followed the rules. See, if you hold a clearance and you get in financial trouble, or arrested, or start making mysterious trips to North Korea, you are supposed to report these things to your security officer. As it turns out, however, some of you do not like reporting your DUIs! So investigators have to do all that work for every single reinvestigation. They have to pull your credit report, get your criminal records, check Twitter to see if you are threatening to overthrow the government, etc.
IT SEES YOU WHEN YOU’RE SLEEPING, IT KNOWS WHEN YOU’RE AWAKE
CE streamlines the situation. Rather than wait for the reinvestigation, a system continually monitors all of a clearance holder’s salient records, looking for evidence of that arrest, a ding on your credit report, a Facebook post of you pledging loyalty to the Iranian government. When a flag is triggered, an adjudicator is immediately alerted and the matter checked out. All that time saved on reinvestigations can then be applied to new applicants. Eventually, every clearance holder will be monitored under CE, eliminating the need for periodic reinvestigations.
The problem (and there is always a problem) is that CE has yet to be fully deployed for all cleared workers. As a result, there is confusion in the ranks. Moreover, there is, if not confusion, then certainly ambiguity, at the top. The fine points of the new system are a bit blurry. Here at ClearanceJobs, we hear a lot about it. One worker wanted to know what happens when a cleared worker is moved from the traditional adjudication system and into CE. Is there a document or proof that one is under the aegis of CE?
Dean Boyd of the ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center tells ClearanceJobs that the answer is YES. “The Office of Director of National Intelligence Continuous Evaluation policy guidance requires that CE enrollment be recorded in a personnel security clearance repository, such as JPAS.” If you want to transfer from one job to another and need a record of your clearance and Continuous Evaluation, your security officer should be able to pull it up.
But what if your security officer can’t find it in JPAS? (Note: There’s a good chance your security officer won’t be able to find it in JPAS.) Welcome to yet another level of torment in the adjudication system! The U.S. government is presently transitioning from JPAS to a successor clearance database, called the Defense Information System for Security (DISS). Despite having been targeted for total rollout in 2017, the new DISS database remains only partially deployed, and disparities abound between the two databases. Two completely different clearance regimes. Two completely different databases that are not in sync. Yep: it’s complicated.
Most security officers report they have not received any written or verbal communication as to which individuals in their companies are evaluated under CE – so they may not know unless they look up your record and see it. So don’t expect a notification from the government, or a notification from your security officer. But you should be able to find out if you’re under CE – if you query through your security clearance system of record.
CAN YOU GO HOME AGAIN?
Another question raised is what happens when a worker under CE leaves his or her cleared position? If your clearance is good for five years (for example) and you leave your job with four to go, are you still monitored? If you leave the cleared industry entirely, does Big Brother keep an eye on your Facebook account until your time is up?
According to Boyd, if you work for the federal government as a civilian, contractor, or military member eligible for access to classified information, you will remain subject to CE only as long as you maintain a government affiliation. “When government employment or affiliation ends, the individual is unenrolled from Continuous Evaluation and the action is recorded in the appropriate clearance repository.” But what if you decide later to return to the cleared workforce? Do you start from scratch with the old adjudication regime? Nope, says Boyd: “Continuous Evaluation would resume if the individual is deemed eligible for access to classified information after returning to a government affiliated job.”
Until CE is rolled out entirely, and DISS finally replaces JPAS, such questions will remain for a long time. If you have questions of your own, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintains a Frequently Asked Questions list that might help. Otherwise, we might be able to help – feel free to drop a note in the comments. If no one at ClearanceJobs knows the answer, maybe we can help you find somebody who can.