DOD may restrict foreign workers

As part of its efforts to improve security, the Defense Department is considering a policy that could prohibit foreign nationals from working on information technology in specified "sensitive-but-unclassified positions," DOD officials confirmed last week.

The exact scope of the draft proposal is unclear, and DOD would not release a copy of the draft policy. However, Pete Nelson, DOD's deputy director for personnel security, said in a written statement March 7 that the draft requires "all persons, including contractors and foreign nationals, employed in specific IT sensitive-but-unclassified positions be subject to an appropriate investigation depending on their positions.

"Some foreign nationals — those in the most sensitive positions — may not be permitted to remain in those positions," Nelson said.

Without more information about the policy, the ramifications are fuzzy, analysts said.

Vendors who do classified work, especially for intelligence organizations, already meet such requirements, said Anthony Valletta, former acting assistant secretary of Defense for command, control communications and intelligence (ASD/C3I) and currently vice president and director of SRA International Inc.'s C3I systems division.

But industry groups said the draft policy raises many questions and could raise the cost of DOD IT contracts.

"I think it is something that needs a lot more public discussion," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va.-based industry group. All IT companies have foreign workers woven throughout their staff, he said, and adhering to such a policy could be a logistical nightmare.

Furthermore, he noted that U.S. citizens also have been prone to misdeeds, he said, noting Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and accused FBI spy Robert Hanssen.

The draft policy is under review and could be approved in 60 days to 90 days, Nelson said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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