McCaskill, Tester Keep Up Pressure on Security Clearance Background Check Bureau Oversight

After briefing on transition of federal background checks to a newly created bureau, Senators continue to raise concerns about planning, operation, oversight

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester are continuing to pressure the Obama Administration about the transition of federal security clearance background checks to a newly created bureau—raising concerns about whether there is a concrete plan for the creation, operation and oversight of the new bureau.

“In recent years, we have seen a flawed background check system severely undermine our national security,” the Senators wrote in the letter to Acting Director of the Office of Personal Management Beth Cobert. “This is both inexcusable and self-inflicted. We are hopeful that the establishment of a new personnel security clearance system can strengthen our national security, reduce insider threats as well as deter and combat cyber intrusions. But this will only occur through a well-planned transition that is properly executed.”

Earlier this year, McCaskill and Tester wrote to the Office of Personnel Management to request information regarding its ability to meet key milestones in creating the new National Background Investigations Bureau, which will take over federal background investigation functions from the Federal Investigative Services. The Administration has yet to provide any of the requested documentation, failing to answer even the most basic questions such as the expected number of employees or what the organizational chart will look like. With less than 60 days until the Office of Personnel Management’s self-imposed deadline to stand up the new bureau, the Senators expressed concerns that the basic structures of the bureau are still not in place.

McCaskill and Tester have introduced bipartisan legislation to increase accountability and oversight of background checks for individuals who can access secure facilities by directing the Office of Personnel Management to terminate or place on leave any employee that is involved in intentional misconduct affecting the integrity of background investigations. The bill was passed unanimously out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Following the systemic problems with the security clearance background check process highlighted by security leaks from contractor Edward Snowden and the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, McCaskill revealed that USIS, the company responsible for conducting the background investigations for both Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, was under criminal investigation. After McCaskill questioned the fact that USIS had two separate contracts with the federal government—one to conduct background investigations, the other to oversee the quality of background investigations conducted by contractors, including USIS itself—the federal government stopped allowing private contractors to oversee their own work in security clearance background checks.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.

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