Senate Intel Committee Approves Measures to Provide Paid Parental Leave to IC Personnel, Reform Security Clearance Process
May 14 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) unanimously approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, including measures introduced by the Committee’s Vice Chairman, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), to provide paid parental leave to intelligence professionals and modernize the antiquated security clearance process.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan annual authorization bill ensures the women and men of our intelligence agencies have the resources they need to do their jobs protecting our country,” SSCI Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said. “I am especially happy that this year’s bill contains a provision that will provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave to intelligence personnel, including adoptive and foster parents, matching what many private sector companies are already providing. I am also proud of the numerous other provisions aimed at deterring foreign influence in our elections, tackling technological threats from China as the U.S. and other nations move to 5G communications, revamping our outdated security clearance process, and enabling the IC to exchange talent with the private sector.”
Every year, Congress authorizes intelligence funding through the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the world. The bill reflects the intelligence committee’s oversight over the past year and its consideration of the president’s budgetary and legislative requests.
As the bill was being debated in Committee, Sen. Warner secured inclusion of an amendment that would provide paid leave to new parents, including adoptive and foster parents, within the intelligence community. While policies currently vary across the intelligence community, parents are commonly required to use a combination of sick, annual or unpaid leave in order to care for a newborn child. A provision in the IAA will require intelligence agencies to implement 12 weeks of paid parental leave for civilian personnel.
Additionally, the IAA includes legislation authored by Sen. Warner to modernize our antiquated security clearance process, return the background investigation inventory that once stood at 725,000 cases to a healthy, stable level, and bring greater accountability to the system. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year 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 IAA passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee today 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 as recently directed by executive order.
- Implement practical reforms so that policies and clearance timelines can be designed to reflect modern circumstances.
- Require agencies to have an electronic portal for applicants to track their progress through the clearance process.
- Require that clearance reforms be implemented equally to benefit personnel employed by the government or by 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.
The bill also includes a provision, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), that requires published adjudicative guidelines serve as the exclusive basis for granting, denying, and revoking a clearance, so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes. This provision also codifies rights to appeal denials and revocations of clearances when constitutional protections have been breached.
Sen. Warner has been a strong voice on security clearance reform. Following years of encouragement from Sen. Warner, the White House last month issued an executive order transferring responsibility for background investigations to the Department of Defense, an important step toward transforming the security clearance system.
The Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020 was approved on a bipartisan, unanimous 15-0 vote. It is named for two dedicated staff members on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Damon Nelson and Matt Pollard, who passed away last year.
The IAA for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 represents a bipartisan effort by the Senate Intelligence Committee to authorize the U.S. intelligence community’s funding, personnel, and activities, and to ensure continued Congressional oversight of critical programs. The bill improves our intelligence community’s ability to protect and defend our country, including in the following key areas:
- Countering aggression from Russia, China and other foreign actors by increasing our capabilities to detect activities, including active measures campaigns, illicit financial transactions, and other intelligence activities.
- Securing our elections from foreign meddling by requiring strategic assessments of Russian cyber threats and influence campaigns, and facilitating increased information sharing between state, local, and federal government officials, and incentivizing better cooperation and data sharing among social media companies.
- Improving the security clearance process by requiring a plan to reduce the backlog, increase efficiencies, create an interagency information-sharing program for positions of trust, and ensure compliance with uniform clearance eligibility procedures within the federal government.
- Protecting the U.S. government technology supply chain by creating a task force within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and improving the procurement process to defend against intrusion and sabotage.
- Bolstering the recruitment and retention of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals by enhancing career path flexibility and benefits for cybersecurity experts working within the intelligence community.
- Enhancing whistleblower rights and the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s oversight by establishing an effective appeals panel process and enabling consistency among intelligence community agencies’ processes and procedures for whistleblowers.
- Advancing the intelligence community workforce by requiring 12 weeks of paid parental leave for civilian intelligence personnel, and by establishing a Public-Private Talent Exchange to foster professional experiences and growth.