Tester’s ‘Snowden bill’ approved by Senate committee

Homeland Security panel backs Senator’s work to increase oversight of security clearance process

(U.S. SENATE) – Thanks to Senator Jon Tester, the odds of a government contractor conducting a security clearance review with no oversight or accountability are dropping fast.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee today approved a key provision of Tester’s Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act. The bill increases oversight over how the government conducts security clearance background checks and holds government employees and contractors more accountable for falsifying investigations.

The panel approved Tester’s provision to empower the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to use resources from its $2 billion Revolving Fund to more thoroughly investigate individuals who have compromised the integrity of security clearance background checks and to better protect taxpayer dollars. Tester’s recent subcommittee hearing revealed that current law blocks OPM from using the funds to investigate the background check process.

As a result, there has never been a full audit or proper oversight over how OPM conducts background investigations of individuals inside and outside the government who seek access to the nation’s most sensitive data.

“In the wake of the Snowden leaks, the need for reform is clear,” said Tester, who noted that five million Americans hold security clearances. “This provision would bring much need oversight and transparency to the Revolving Fund. It’s bipartisan, it’s cost-neutral, and whether you’re looking at this from a national security or a fiscal perspective, it makes a lot of sense.”

Tester, as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, is taking the lead to reform the security clearance process.

After Snowden, a former government contractor, publicly revealed classified information in June, Tester teamed up with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to introduce the SCORE Act earlier this month. Its provisions stem from Tester’s June hearing that revealed that a lack of oversight and information sharing is wasting taxpayer dollars and jeopardizing the security of classified information.

Tester today said that he will continue working with all parties, including the Administration, to move forward with the SCORE Act‘s other provisions, which empower OPM to terminate or debar investigators and others found to have falsified background investigations and force the government to update its policy determining which positions require a security clearance.

Tester expects the full Senate to vote on the SCORE Act soon.