WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced legislation to modernize our antiquated security clearance system, reduce the background investigation backlog, and ensure the government has the trusted workforce necessary to perform its national security and public safety missions. Earlier this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) added the government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process to their High-Risk List of federal areas in need of either broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
“The current process for granting security clearances to government personnel and contractors is in dire need of reform,” said Sen. Warner. “In light of new and emerging threats, this bill reflects the changes we need to make to this 70-year-old system to adjust to the increasing availability of data, new technologies, and a more mobile workforce so that we can maintain the pipeline of trusted professionals that the nation requires.”
“PSC and the contractor community owe Vice Chairman Warner thanks for his tenacious and persistent focus on modernizing and streamlining the federal government’s security clearance processes,” said David J. Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. “The current backlog and wait times add risk to government missions, contract performance, and the ability of both the government and contractors to recruit and hire the talent we need. Enactment of the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act will reduce these negative impacts while maintaining integrity in the system and better protecting our national security.”
“We deeply appreciate Senator Warner’s leadership on critical security clearance reform. For our members to attract and retain technology talent, we must seriously reduce the clearance cycle time. This is crucial for our ability to serve the nation effectively,” said Bobbie Kilberg, CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
“While the security clearance backlog is slowly getting smaller, we need urgent steps to ensure the U.S. government and U.S. companies doing critical national security work can recruit, hire, and retain talented individuals to work on classified programs. AIA supports the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2018 as a positive step towards resolving the security clearance backlog and positioning us to employ the workforce essential to ensuring our security into the future," said Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.
The Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act would:
- Hold the Executive Branch accountable for addressing the immediate crisis of the background investigation backlog and provide a plan for consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau at the Department of Defense, as the Administration has committed to doing;
- Implement practical reforms so that we can design policies and timelines for clearances that reflect modern circumstances. Reforms must be implemented equally for all departments, and for personnel requiring a clearance, whether they are employed by the government or industry;
- Strengthen oversight of the personnel vetting apparatus by codifying the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities as the Security Executive Agent; and
- Promote innovation, including by analyzing how a determination of trust clearance can be tied to a person, not to an agency’s sponsorship. The bill draws on provisions that were contained in the Intelligence Authorization Act unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018.
Sen. Warner has been a strong voice on security clearance reform, urging the White House to prioritize reforms to the clearance process. The Intelligence Authorization Act that was unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year contains similar provisions found in this bill.