THE MAGAZINE

Who Really Needs A Security Clearance?

By Megan Gates

But when questioned by Tester about how OPM would ensure that the rule was adopted properly and being used correctly by all federal agencies, Curry was unable to provide specifics for enforcement. Instead, he said that agencies will still be given great freedom to designate positions that need security clearances.

Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight, suggested that Congress amend the law, which would give the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) power of review for national security positions, and that an inventory be taken of all positions that currently are designated to hold a security clearance. “These positions need to be better understood and categorized before a finalized rule. It should have been done before the proposed rule, in our estimation,” Canterbury said.

As an example of a successful inventory process, Canterbury discussed the process that the Obama administration used to rein in the designation of information as “for official use only” versus “controlled but unclassified.” She recommended that OPM and ODNI require a complete review from all agencies of their positions with a security clearance with reasons why that clearance is necessary and the scope of the position that requires the clearance. “If we really want to get a handle on legitimate designations, then tell us what those are,” she said.

ODNI has made some moves to conduct an inventory. The director signed an executive correspondence that was sent to all government agencies requiring them to go through their clearance lists and validate their numbers, Prioletti said. The correspondence was issued on October 31, and agencies were given 90 days to comply.

In the meantime, Tester said the subcommittee and the committee itself would continue to look into the proposed rule and seek clarification about the designation process. He also said they will consider passing legislation, including the bill authored by him, to further streamline the process and ensure oversight over security clearance position designations.   

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