Bill would prevent DOD from pulling clearances
Davis measure would briefly relieve clearance crisis
- By David Hubler
- May 15, 2006
An amendment aimed at temporarily alleviating the crisis caused by the stoppage in security clearance processing passed the House last week as part of the $513 billion National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007.
The bill now goes to the Senate, but congressional observers do not expect any action there until well after the Memorial Day holiday. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a $517.7 billion version of the bill May 4, but it has no provision for addressing the clearance crisis.
The Defense Department announced earlier this month that it was shutting down Defense Security Services’ (DSS) processing of security clearance applications because of a lack of funds. The sudden stop came as a surprise to lawmakers and other observers.
The unanimously approved amendment to H.R. 5122 — added to the legislation by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee; Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.); and Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) — only prevents DOD from revoking expiring clearances due to its failure to plan adequately for the work volume.
“The prohibition would last until DOD is able to get a handle on the current crisis and resume processing requests for clearances in a timely and efficient manner,” Davis’ spokesman, Robert White, explained in a statement. “This of course doesn’t fix the problem completely, but it’s what we can get done in short order.”
Trey Hodgkins, director of defense programs at the Information Technology Association of America, said the amendment helps one part of the problem, but not until Oct. 1 — the first day of fiscal 2007 — when the law would take effect.
Funding procedures in the House eliminated any possibility of adding supplemental spending to the amendment.
Hodgkins said contractors with periodic reviews scheduled within the next five months do not benefit from the amendment. The stoppage is costing the defense industry millions of dollars and “literally tens of thousands of dollars per employee,” he added.
Hodgkins said ITAA’s short-term goal is to work with DOD and the Bush administration to find the estimated $180 million needed to restart security clearance processing as soon as possible.
But, he said, “we do not see them finding the money at the Pentagon, which means that Congress will in some way or other [have to] provide supplemental funding.”
What no one wants to see, he added, is the system starting up again without full funding for the year. That would “create a tsunami effect,” Hodgkins said, in which contractors might flood DSS with even more applications out of fear of another shutdown.
John Douglass, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association, said he recently met with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who assured him that DOD “would find some money to turn the spigot back on this year.”
“Secretary England knows that we have hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of contracts with the Defense Depart
ment across the industry that require new security clearances,” Douglass said.
He called the House language helpful and said, “We’re confident it’s going to get fixed this year.”