Today marks one year since the senseless acts of violence at Washington Navy Yard. After the events last fall, the President directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct a 120-day review of Federal employee suitability and contractor fitness determinations as well as security clearance procedures. As Deputy Director for Management, and chair of the inter-agency Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council, taking the lead on these efforts was one of the first things I did upon arriving at OMB. The inter-agency team, comprised of members from across the Federal spectrum, engaged in an intensive review effort to assess risks and vulnerabilities inherent in current security, suitability, and credentialing processes, and identified actionable solutions.
The 120-Day Suitability and Security Report laid out a set of 13 key recommendations to improve how the Government performs suitability determinations and security clearances. The report’s recommendations built upon DOD’s Navy Yard Reviews, and ongoing work by OPM, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, DoD and other agencies. We have a lot of work to do, but over the past year we’ve made meaningful and impactful progress, and are continuing to work and coordinate across the whole of government to accelerate this progress.
Here are some key points on our efforts to date:
Continuous Evaluation. The Administration has launched several pilots that are currently underway to assess Continuous Evaluation (CE) capability. These pilots have already successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of more frequent investigations of cleared personnel and a comprehensive CE program is scheduled to have initial operating capability for the most sensitive populations by the end of this year, and fully implemented for these populations in FY 2016.
Frequent Background Checks. The Suitability and Security Executive Agents revised the Federal Investigative Standards (FIS) to establish a five-year reinvestigation requirement for all individuals with a security clearance, regardless the level of access. This is a change from the prior practice of conducting background reevaluations every five and ten years for those with top-secret and secret clearances, respectively.
Improved Access to Law Enforcement Records. In accordance with the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the inter-agency Records Access Task Force examined the relevant policies that determine the level of access that background investigators have to public records. The NDAA Task Force report provided recommendations for improving information sharing between State, Local, and Federal Law Enforcement entities when conducting background investigations.
Enhancing the Quality of Background Investigations. The Security and Suitability Executive Agents jointly released Executive branch guidance for the implementation of National Training Standards (NTS) for Background Investigators, National Security Adjudicators and Suitability Adjudicators. The NTS will enhance the quality of background investigations and adjudications through standardized policies, processes and training.
Access to Classified Information. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a government-wide requirement for all agencies to review and validate whether each individual within their agency identified as eligible for access to classified information still required eligibility. To date, agencies have responded with significant reduction of clearances across their agency population. By the end of CY 2014, our objective is to reduce the total number of individuals identified as having an active security clearance by at least 10 %.
Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal. The Administration also established the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform that serves as the 120-Day implementation plan and focuses on eight sub-goals that support insider threat, suitability and security clearance reform activities. This CAP Action Plan is publicly available at Performance.gov and is updated quarterly to monitor progress and hold agencies accountable for success.
We’ve made progress, but there is more work to be done. We will continue to work aggressively to ensure rigorous oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place throughout government, thereby ensuring the safety of Federal workers and the protection of our nation’s most sensitive information.
Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget and Chair of the Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council.