Security Clearance Process

Security Clearance Process Reforms- Will They Work?

A year after the Washington Navy Yard shootings security clearance process reform is moving forward, albeit slowly and methodically. A recent Washington Post article highlighted the progress already made in certain areas, but also came to the conclusion that there is still quite a bit of work to be done before any meaningful changes are effected. Among the changes underway are reducing the number of clearance holders to those that actually need them, decreasing the intervals in between reinvestigations, and updating the continuous evaluation process to make it more robust and effective.

The article discussed the need for better screening of those that access federal facilities and pointed to the costs of investigations and reinvestigations for the approximately 5.1 million cleared personnel. However, I argue that totally missed was the fact that there are millions of other government employees and contractors who also access federal facilities and are assigned to Public Trust positions that undergo a background investigation that involves fieldwork. And then there are the low risk personnel who undergo a National Agency Check with Inquiries where no field work is done, but with their government issued PIV or CAC card they have the same access to general facilities that everyone else has.

The knee jerk reaction to shootings on military bases and federal facilities does not seem to be well thought out and focuses on the small percentage of the people who have security clearances, 60% of whom don’t even have access to classified information. What about the millions of employees and contractors who don’t have a clearance? Are they less likely to commit an atrocity? I think not! There is no one size fits all answer, but as an adjudicator I see the uglier side to these low risk individuals who come and go to work along with their cleared brethren and think it is only a matter of time before we have another tragedy on our hands.