Tester, Portman investigate national security workforce

Senators introduce new legislation to bring more accountability to the security clearance process

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today took on the out-of-date and inadequate way the federal government designates certain positions as national security ‘sensitive’ or that require a security clearance.

Tester and Portman held their second hearing in two days in their Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. Today’s hearing examined whether the arbitrary manner in which government agencies designate ‘sensitive’ positions hurts federal workers and burdens taxpayers.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Tester and Portman announced plans to introduce legislation to improve the security clearance process by requiring clearer, government-wide rules designating ‘sensitive’ positions, as well as regular policy reviews. The Senators’ legislation will also hold individuals who intentionally compromise the integrity of a background investigation more accountable.

“The lack of clear guidance has led us down a path to where we now have almost five million Americans with security clearances and access to our nation’s most sensitive information and secure facilities,” Tester said after hearing from witnesses. “There is a real need for such guidance and to improve the security clearance process.”

“I think we can all acknowledge that there is a significant need for reform with regard to the security clearance process,” said Portman. “We must get our arms around the amount of information the government is classifying and tasks that are deemed sensitive for national security. This relates directly to the demands placed on our clearance process.”

The hearing also examined concerns about a recent court case – Kaplan v. Conyers – that would allow the federal government to make personnel decisions regarding ‘sensitive’ positions while denying federal employees the right to appeal those decisions.

Today’s hearing brings more attention to consequences of the U.S. Court of Appeals decision. In September, the Senators told the Director of National Intelligence and the Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management not to finalize the rule ‘until the matter has been fully and publicly aired.’

Tester and Portman are the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce. They previously tackled the security clearance issue in June and recently passed legislation to start reforming the clearance process.

Video of Tester and Portman’s hearing from today is available online HERE.