House OKs security clearance Band-Aid
- By David Hubler
- May 11, 2006
The House unanimously passed yesterday an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act aimed at helping to ease the employee clearance crisis caused by the Defense Department’s sudden halt to processing security updates and background investigations.
The House is expected to pass the overall legislation sometime today, and it will then go to the Senate.
Last month, the Defense Security Service announced it had run out of money to pay for the clearances. DSS said it would need an additional $180 million to pay for processing the estimated 30,000 clearances through the end of the fiscal year.
The stoppage affected contract employees awaiting initial clearances and those awaiting their security renewals, part of the periodic re-investigations.
The amendment Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, introduced with Reps. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) and Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) would prevent DOD from revoking expiring clearances solely on the basis of not planning 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,” Robert White, Tom Davis’ spokesman, said in a statement.
“This of course doesn’t fix the problem completely, but it’s what we can get done in short order,” White added.
He said Davis plans to hold a committee hearing on the matter May 17.
"We cannot put defense contractors in the position of having to choose between firing their employees or granting uncleared personnel access to classified material and facilities," Davis said in a statement.
"The federal government spends billions of dollars each year on defense contracts requiring workers with security clearances," he added. “If contractors are unable to find enough cleared personnel who have access to classified information, the cost of these contracts increases dramatically. The taxpayer will be forced to pick up the tab, and our national security will suffer.”
The Contract Services Association called the amendment to the fiscal 2007 Defense Authorization bill "a significant step toward addressing the shutdown of processing security clearances."
Chris Jahn, CSA president, said in a statement that "work remains to be done to solve the systemic problems with the process, but this action is a good first step."
“While not a complete fix, this amendment addresses one problem raised by the sudden halt by the Defense Department to accept applications from government contractors for security clearances or periodic re-investigations,” Jahn said.
The association signed a letter endorsed by several organizations, including the Information Technology Association of America and Aerospace Industries Association, in support of the amendment.
David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.