Tester pushes security clearance reform forward

Senator’s amendment included in the National Defense Authorization Act

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester’s effort to strengthen security clearance background checks, prevent insider threats, and enhance security for sensitive federal facilities took a strong step forward after his amendment was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Tester’s amendment contains recommendations from federal and local law enforcement agencies to increase efficiencies in security clearance background investigations. In 2013, Tester helped create a multiagency task force, including state and local law enforcement officials, charged with drafting recommendations on how to improve the security clearance process.

“We can’t allow folks to attain security clearances unless we are absolutely confident they will keep our nation’s most sensitive information secure,” Tester said. “This amendment takes recommendations directly from experts so we can better prevent cases like the Navy Yard shooting. This amendment will help detect and prevent insider threats, enhance the security of our nation’s most sensitive facilities, and improve background investigations.”

The amendment does the following:
· Centralizes the Defense Department’s security clearance reform effort under‎ one position and requires them to implement continuous evaluation of cleared staff.
· Requires security standards for physical and electronic access to secured facilities across the government.
· Requires all federal agencies to have access to the same resources and tools when conducting background investigations for security clearances
· Updates the law that guides access to criminal history records information. This section of law has not been updated since 2000 – before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were created.
· Reduces duplication by requiring federal agencies to use one automated information system.
· Requires the Office of Management and Budget to report on how the federal government can better coordinate with local law enforcement to conduct background investigations for national security personnel.

Earlier this year, Tester’s bill to reform the national security clearance process by prohibiting federal contractors and employees who have compromised the integrity of a background investigation from performing future background investigations unanimously passed the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

The NDAA now goes to a conference committee to resolve differences with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives.