The Federal Government has been under scrutiny over the past few years from private industry for imposing undue regulatory burdens through heightened and allegedly over-reaching enforcement activity. When the EEOC announced its focus on enforcing issues they deemed to constitute disparate impact resulting in unconstitutional discrimination, private industry raised their hands proclaiming the federal governments hiring practices violated the standards being enforced.
The Snowden incident brought one big spotlight onto the issue. On February 11th, Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published a staff report entitled, “Slipping Through the Cracks: How the D.C. Navy Yard Shooting Exposes Flaws in the Federal Security Clearance Process.” In the report, the Committee reviewed findings and recommendations from its investigation of the clearance review process conducted following the September 16, 2013, shooting by the security clearance holder at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard.
In the report, the Committee identified five potential legislative improvements to the government “security clearance” initial screening and ongoing review process:
- Continuous screening and evaluation of the individual;
- Incorporate Internet and social media sources into the review;
- Strengthen communication between decision makers and researchers/investigators;
- Increase use of mental health evaluations; and
- Increase cooperation from state and local law enforcement.
Security Clearance Reform Act of 2014
On February 10th, the day before the Oversight Committee’s hearing and report release, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced H.R. 4022, the “Security Clearance Reform Act of 2014,” which would “provide for a strategic plan to reform and improve the security clearance and background investigation process of the federal government.” The bill would require the president to complete a strategic plan improving clearance reviews, including by:
- Establishing continuous evaluation, including “federal, state, and local government and commercially available information, including financial credit history, currency transactions, court records, traffic violations, arrest records, terrorist and criminal watch lists, foreign travel, and online social media”;
- Developing “procedures that ensure that any information collected pursuant to the plan with respect to a covered individual, including information collected from online social media, shall be verified for authenticity”;
- Increasing “the use of digitally processed fingerprints as a substitute for ink or paper prints to reduce error rates and improve portability of data”;
- Developing “federal government-wide performance measures”; and
- Requiring that a federal employee conduct the final quality or integrity assurance review and the investigation of any individual eligible for a clearance at the Top Secret level or higher.
The bill does not increase the use of mental health evaluations and would prohibit OPM from awarding a contract for either investigative support or background investigative fieldwork if the contractor already has a contract with OPM for the other. The bill was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as well as the Committee on the Judiciary.