Warner Urges DNI & OPM to Not Jeopardize Intel Workforce Security Clearances Amid Coronavirus Threat
Mar 11 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urging them to issue clear guidance that ensures the security clearances of intelligence community personnel and contractors will not be jeopardized due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to exercise appropriate leniency in considering how the coronavirus (COVID-19) may be negatively impacting adjudications for a security clearance or determination of trust,” wrote Sen. Warner.
A key element of the background investigation that supports a security clearance or a determination of trustworthiness is an individual’s financial stability. In his letter, Sen. Warner raised concerns that COVID-19’s impact could not only lead to financial duress for employees with security clearances, but that this financial duress could lead to delays in renewing security clearances. It could even result in personnel losing their positions in the event that they must heed the advice of health professionals and subsequently lose out on a paycheck in order to self-quarantine. The problem is particularly true for younger workers who lack a long credit history.
“While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with coping with COVID-19. This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation program,” continued Sen. Warner.
Earlier this week, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) issued a statement that supports Sen. Warner’s recommendation for the DNI Acting Director to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus by issuing guidance that acknowledges that “financial difficulties incurred as a result of a work stoppage should not be treated as derogatory factors affecting workers’ security clearances.”
The Honorable Dale Cabaniss
Director, Office of Personnel Management
1900 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20415
Ambassador Richard Grenell
Acting Director of National Intelligence
Washington, D.C. 20511
Dear Director Cabaniss and Acting Director Grenell:
I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to ensure that the coronavirus (COVID-19) does not negatively impact adjudications for government or contractor employees’ security clearances or determinations of trust.
COVID-19 may have many effects on our workforce, to include financial difficulty and psychological stress. Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may require government and contractor personnel to self-quarantine or tend to family members, which in may cause them miss payments on things like rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other forms of debt. The impact may be particularly acute for hourly workers. This could impact their credit scores and jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust. The problem is particularly acute for younger workers who lack a long credit history. Psychological strain can naturally accompany such circumstances, exacerbating the situation.
While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance to ensure that departments and agencies do not penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with COVID-19. This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation/vetting program.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.