WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, reintroduced 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. Last 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 broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. This legislation was first introduced in December 2018 and draws on provisions from the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018/2019, which was unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018.
Sen. Warner also wrote to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Director of National Intelligence Coats and other key officials, to reiterate his call for urgent and aggressive implementation of needed reforms.
“The current vetting process for security clearances and positions of trust is too complicated, takes too long, costs too much, and fails to capitalize on modern technology and processes,” wrote Sen. Warner. “We are taking too many security risks and losing talented people who are not willing to endure a years-long process. Our current system is broken and needs a revolution.”
“In order to achieve our shared objectives, we must avoid politicizing and delaying reform efforts,” he continued. “We must act now, especially amidst allegations of inappropriate granting and revoking of clearances and anxieties caused by the government shutdown.”
The Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act would:
- Hold the Executive Branch accountable for addressing the immediate background investigation backlog crisis.
- Provide a plan for consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau at the Department of Defense.
- Implement practical reforms so that policies and clearance timelines can be designed to reflect modern circumstances.
- Require that reforms be implemented equally for all departments
,and for personnel requiring a clearance, regardless of 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.
- Promote innovation, including by analyzing how a determination of trust clearance can be tied to a person, not to an agency’s sponsorship.
“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. “Excessive backlogs 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.
During the recent partial government shutdown, Sen. Warner wrote to the Administration to ensure that federal employees did not have their security clearances jeopardized through no fault of their own, due to their loss of pay.
For more information on this legislation, click here.
January 31, 2019
The Honorable Mick Mulvaney
Acting White House Chief of Staff
The White House
Washington, DC 20503
The Honorable Margaret Weichert
Deputy Director of the Office of Management & Budget,
Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management
Chair, Performance Accountability Council
The White House
Washington, DC 20503
The Honorable Daniel Coats
Director of National Intelligence
Washington, DC 20511
The Honorable Joseph Kernan
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
5000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-5000
Dear Mr. Mulvaney, Ms. Weichert, Mr. Coats, and Mr. Kernan:
I write you to reiterate my March 13 and September 25, 2018, letters to then-chief of staff John F. Kelly, calling for urgent and aggressive implementation of reforms to the government’s antiquated process for ensuring we have a trusted government and contract workforce.
The current vetting process for security clearances and positions of trust is too complicated, takes too long, costs too much, and fails to capitalize on modern technology and processes. We are taking too many security risks and losing talented people who are not willing to endure a years-long process. Our current system is broken and needs a revolution. In order to achieve our shared objectives, we must avoid politicizing and delaying reform efforts. We must act now, especially amidst allegations of inappropriate granting and revoking of clearances and anxieties caused by the government shutdown.
A new vetting paradigm should be built on a few basic principles, delineated in a bill I introduced last year and am reintroducing in the 116th Congress, S. 3724, Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2018.
· Accountability: requiring plans for reducing the background investigation inventory to a steady state of roughly 200,000 from its high point of 725,000 in April 2018; consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB) in the Department of Defense; and maintaining transparency in the costs of background investigations; and ensuring reciprocity.
· Reform: rethinking the current suite of investigative methods; adopting consistent and clear policy for interim clearances, uniform treatment of government and contract personnel, and use of automated records checks; setting bold design goals to process applications for SECRET clearances in 30 days and TOP SECRET clearances in 90 days; and ensuring prompt reciprocity.
· Oversight: codifying the roles and responsibilities of the DNI as the government’s Security Executive Agent in statute.
· Innovation: employing a process that reflects current threats, a mobile workforce, and modern technologies; reduces the complexity of a five-tier system; enables sharing of derogatory information between and among government agencies and contractors; and reexamines which positions even need a clearance.
The good news is that I believe the executive branch is contemplating many of these reforms. An executive order to consolidate NBIB at the Department of Defense has been under consideration for many months. The Performance Accountability Council is poised to implement a Trusted Workforce 2.0 initiative with a comprehensive policy and process framework, but that first requires White House endorsement.
I urge you to act swiftly and aggressively to push forward these much needed reforms.
I stand ready to help provide legislative and oversight leadership an effective, efficient, accountable, and fair process to ensure we have a trusted workforce.