Today three members of congress released a bill looking to make it easier for service members to put their security clearances to use after they transition from the military. The Security Clearance Portability for Departing Servicemembers Act is sponsored by Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). The text of the bill has not yet been recorded by the Library of Congress, so the full nature of the legislation is unclear, but press release from Turner’s office notes the bill aims to make it easier for veterans to serve in national security roles.
“The Security Clearance Portability for Departing Servicemembers Act will improve the transition for men and women in uniform from a position within the Department of Defense to supporting our national security in the private sector while cutting down costly delays on national security related projects,” Rep. Turner said.
News reports indicated the legislation would ensure clearances were kept current for one year following a separation from service, with the option for a three-year extension. That extension timeline may make it easier for veterans to use their GI bill benefits or pursue transitional schooling and then still be able to put their clearance to work.
Not the First Discussion of Clearance Portability
This is not the first time congress has addressed the topic of clearance portability. It has been a frequent topic of conversation around security clearance reform efforts as well as the Trusted Workforce 2.0 overhaul of the clearance process. Sometimes referred to as the ‘clearance in person’ concept in language included in the Intelligence Authorization Act, it has been described as follows: “Implementation of a clearance in person concept…would permit an individual who has been granted a national security clearance to maintain eligibility for access to classified information, networks, and facilities after the individual has separated from service to the Federal Government or transferred to a position that no longer requires access to classified information.”
Often referred to as a measure that would help contractors looking to move or transition employees between contracts or in and out of government and private sector service, it’s a similar push as the effort to ensure service members are able to continue to keep putting their clearances to work after they take off the uniform.
The issue of how long a clearance remains current continues to be one that generates a lot of questions, only more so with individuals enrolled in Continuous Vetting no longer having a recent Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) date to refer to. Previously, security clearances were considered ‘current’ (eligible for reinstatement), if an individual had less than a two-year break in service AND didn’t have an expired investigation. Many individuals today are asking how long their shelf date is if they hop out of a cleared job – but may want to hop back in.
And it’s also a topic representatives at the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency have been asking. As officials have evolved, improved, and enhanced the security clearance background investigations process, one question has been whether a two-year break in service should really be considered relevant for reestablishing eligibility – what’s so special about two years? No policy changes have been released, but as Trusted Workforce 2.0 moves forward and PRs are replaced, it’s one question that will likely need to be answered.
Getting Service Members (back) Into Cleared Work
Without viewing the bill, it’s difficult to say much more – other than asking why it would only apply to service members and not all security clearance holders transitioning out of a cleared position. But veterans may represent a unique group more willing – and needed – to form a security clearance ready-reserve who are putting their clearances on hold to try other opportunities and pursue education – but then also want to transition back in.