Former DNI Director Says Clearance System is Broken
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who retired last January, stated in a recent interview posted on NextGov that “the clearance system we have is broke”. I am sure many of the current clearance holders and applicants would agree. Some of the issues Clapper identified have long been the bane of many applicants: long delays in completing investigations; lack of communication; archaic continuous evaluation processes; and obsolete data repository systems. The consequences resulting from the current process is the loss of prospective talent to fill critical cyber and intelligence positions because potential applicants don’t want to or can’t afford to wait for an undetermined amount of time to see if they will pass the clearance process.
One of the areas that has frustrated me personally in my career as a security professional is when unwanted baggage (people) are allowed to move from contract to contract or agency to agency because it is easier to let them become someone else’s problem rather than hold them accountable by documenting misconduct. Here is a prime example: A government employee repeatedly views porn at work, he is counseled multiple times, and finally a letter for proposed removal is drafted. Before it is officially issued, the HR or legal office offers the individual the opportunity to resign. Seeing the writing on the wall, the employee resigns and promptly applies for a contractor position working in support of that same agency. Because no official action was taken, there is nothing that prevents him from working on the contract. His last background investigation is still good because he separated within 24 months.
In the interview with Clapper he said “The government must ensure that its updated vetting system for security clearances is capable of tracking employees and contractors as the move from company to company, from contract to contract, and in and out of the federal government”. I agree wholeheartedly and think it should be taken one step further; apply it to all levels of investigation, not just clearance holders.