Security Clearance: Work in Progress

Denied, Speech, Washington Navy YardIn the aftermath of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on September 16, 2013, President Obama admitted that his government must do better work when it comes to securing US military facilities and making decisions on the people gaining access to them.

Dissonance between speech and action

If the question arises on whether the government is doing better work a year later, the answer will be that it is trying. A large quantity of speeches, reports and hearings have been made, but action is noticeably less on the ground. A number of legislative pieces have been brought in, with only the measures with restricted impact have been passed.

Thomas R. Carper, a Senator and also the Chairman of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, quoted administration and congressional efforts. The Senator added that work still has to be done when it comes to improving and modernizing the process of security clearance. This will assist the US administration to do a more effective job of finding out individuals unfit for clearance and may cause harm not only to others, but also to the national security of the United States.

The shootings in the Navy Yard, done by a contractor who possessed a security clearance and who was subsequently killed by the police, lead to much official anxiety. Three months earlier, Edward Snowden was the recipient of official anger, when he leaked secret documents belonging to the National Security Agency. Snowden was also a contractor with security clearance.

Security clearance reform

Anger and anxiety, however, do not necessarily transform fast into public policy. Reform in security clearance can be a long process. Jon Tester, a Senator and Chairman of the sub-committee of the Senate’s federal workforce, is of the opinion that the government should have moved much faster than it did after the event. The Democrat from Montana was careful in not playing the blame game and added that if he had his say, this would have been accorded a much higher priority.

Tester, to his credit, pointed out two legislative pieces he sponsored that later became law. For example,  the inspector general in Office of Personnel Management is provided by Security Clearance Oversight Reform Act to access extra funding so that it cab investigate improprieties related to background checks. Another different measure wants to improve cooperation between state and local authorities with the federal background investigators.

There is also the issue of the large number of background checks which are required. Approximately 5 million individuals are security clearance eligible. The aim is to lessen the quantity of the active security clearances with a minimum of 10 percent.

 

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