DNA and Security Clearances
A recent Federal Register report discussed the possibility of using DNA testing as a part of the applicant screening process. DNA testing, it was noted, could be used in the same way fingerprints are currently, and be checked against criminal investigations using DNA evidence.
“The Federal Government is looking into the feasibility of using biometric identifiers other than fingerprints in the security clearance process,” the Pentagon said. It was also quick to point out that any DNA collection would be covered in a separate rule-making (and I’m guessing it would also include a lot of very friendly back and forth with federal employee labor unions, the ACLU, and other interested parties).
It’s not shocking that advanced biometrics are under consideration. Clearance applicants are already asked to provide fingerprints as a part of the process (a process which only went electronic this past year). The federal government does not necessarily play by the same employment rules as the private sector, particularly when it comes to security clearance applicants.
But there are definitely a few very significant barriers to using DNA testing as a part of the clearance process. The first is cost. Uncle Sam is still attempting to figure out where it will get the millions it needs for continuous monitoring and evaluation of its cleared workforce. The millions needed for DNA collection are definitely not floating around, just waiting to be spent.
There’s also the problem of technology. As noted above, electronic fingerprint capture was only mandated this year (hence, most security-cleared personnel will have memories of getting their hands dirty with the ink and paper system). The technology for the collection and oversight of more advanced biometrics is certainly not possible with the personnel process in place today.