Bill would prevent DOD from pulling clearances

Davis measure would briefly relieve clearance crisis

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.”

Other key provisions in the DOD bill

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007 offers a provision to mitigate the effects of halted security clearance processing. In addition, it:
n Limits to $2.85 billion the amount that may be used after fiscal 2007 for the Future Combat Systems if the secretary of the Army fails to fully fund equipment needs for the global war on terrorism and the transformation to modularity.

  • Requires the Defense Department to study the ways terrorists use the Internet and report to Congress by May 1, 2007, on the findings and recommendations for countering the terrorist groups.

  • Calls for the secretary of Defense to seek alternative components, subsystems or systems that may provide short-term savings for major programs in danger of reaching a pre-established limit on increased cost.

  • Calls for DOD to provide assistive technology devices and services to military service members who suffer a severe or debilitating illness or injury.

  • Requires DOD to submit a report to Congress on progress made in implementing acquisition reforms that were mandated by the previous year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

  • Authorizes the General Services Administration to allow state and local governments to use the GSA schedule contracts to purchase goods and services needed for recovery from terrorism; nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack; or natural disasters.

  • Requires the secretary of Defense to report to Congress quarterly on progress in implementing measures called for in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

  • Source: National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007

    About the Author

    David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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