USA: Navy Yard Shootings Indicate Need for Improved Security Clearance

Navy Yard Shootings Indicate Need for Improved Security Clearance

The United States (US) Navy Yard shootings in September and unauthorized disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have highlighted the need for changes to the current security clearance process, Stephen Lewis, deputy director for personnel, industrial and physical security policy in the office of undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told a Senate committee Thursday.

This includes US DOD civilians, service members and embedded contractor personnel, he said.

“Under the National Industrial Security Program, cleared contractors are required to report adverse information coming to their attention regarding their cleared employees,” Lewis said.

DOD component heads are responsible for establishing procedures to report significant derogatory information, unfavorable administrative actions and adverse actions related to personnel, Lewis said.

 “In addition, the Defense Security Service is responsible for conducting oversight of companies cleared to perform on classified contracts for DOD and 26 other federal departments and agencies that use DOD industrial security services.”

For several years, the department has partnered with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in reform efforts intended to improve the clearance process. As a result, Lewis said, in 2011 the Government Accountability Office removed DOD’s personnel security clearance program from its high-risk list.

A recent inspector general’s review found that temporary access to Navy installations was being granted without conducting the proper background checks, he said. The report stated that, upon review, about 50 people were found to be convicted felons, he said.

The Navy has since taken corrective action, Lewis noted. Temporary installation access requires a criminal background check and a check of the terrorism database, he said. But the issue demonstrated the utility of continuous checks of cleared personnel, a program that is currently under development for the department, he said.

A concept demonstration is scheduled to run from April to December 2014, Lewis said, and would examine 100,000 cleared military, civilian and contractor personnel.

 “This concept demonstration would have real-time updates so that as information became available it would be pushed into the system,” he said.

The current system doesn’t allow for continuous monitoring of all cleared personnel, Lewis said.

However, the system “does provide on-demand queries of a large number of government and commercial data sources, as well as an analytical capability to flag issues of concern,” he said.

 “We need to make a commitment and effectively ensure that what happens between investigations is something that is tracked,” Lewis added.

Press Release,November 4, 2013; Image: US DoD