Tester, Portman: Law enforcement must work together to prevent security clearance slip-ups

Senators call for examination of federal, state, local agency information sharing for security clearance investigations

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are making sure local, state and federal agencies do a better job sharing information when assessing the suitability of individuals to receive a security clearance.

Tester and Portman want Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Sylvia Burwell to find ways to improve information sharing between agencies. Burwell’s office directs the Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council, which leads government-wide reforms of the security clearance process.

Tester and Portman recently held a hearing in their Homeland Security subcommittee where Office of Personnel Management officials testified that investigators do not have enough access to applicants’ criminal records. The officials told the Senators that investigating security clearance applicants for violent behavior or criminal records is difficult because each of the nation’s 22,000 law enforcement agencies have different rules and procedures about sharing information.

Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, was arrested in Seattle for a gun crime in 2007, but local law enforcement did not fully disclose the incident to federal investigators.

“As we move forward with reforming the way our government conducts background investigations and awards security clearances, the feedback and perspective from officials at all levels will be required,” Tester and Portman told Burwell. “We urge you to move forward with the establishment of a task force and report the findings. Doing so would provide valuable input on how we defend our nation’s most sensitive data and our most secure facilities.”

Tester and Portman also called on Burwell to look into the limitations that rural law enforcement departments with fewer resources face when sharing information with investigators.

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 two hearings this year and recently passed legislation to start reforming the clearance process.

Tester and Portman’s Letter to OMB Director Sylvia Burwell by les_braswell5524