WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today pledged to continue her push for additional legislation to better protect the country's secure installations and sensitive information by strengthening security clearance background checks.
The Office of Personnel Management's Inspector General (OPM IG) today released its audit of OPM's federal background check processes, which found a lack of adequate oversight and a lack of internal contractor controls that may have led to thousands of background checks passing through the system without adequate review.
"When background checks are conducted improperly, it's nothing short of a threat to our national security," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight and a former Missouri State Auditor. "We've made progress in strengthening accountability in the security clearance process, but this troubling audit shows we have to do more to tighten controls over the system and its contractors—such as automated review and more rigid oversight. The kinds of threats facing this country today mean there can be no room for error when vetting the folks we trust with access to classified information."
The IG's audit found that one security clearance contractor completed 15,152 background investigation reviews during a one-month timeframe, with most of these occurring within minutes of each other on multiple days. The IG also found that 17 investigation reports were not reviewed by the contractor in charge of the investigation before they were submitted to the OPM. And two contractors were unable to prove that 29 of 100 reviewers and support personnel met training requirements.
The President recently signed into law a bill cosponsored by McCaskill, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, and Republican Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, improving oversight of the security clearance process by empowering the OPM IG to use resources from the OPM's Revolving Fund to audit and investigate contractors that conduct background checks of government employees and contractors.
After security leaks from contractor Edward Snowden and the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard illustrated systemic problems with the security clearance background check process, McCaskill, along with Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota introduced bipartisan legislation to implement periodic automated reviews of public records and databases for information that might affect the security clearance status of individuals with security clearances.
The Senators' bipartisan legislation would require the OPM to use an automated review that would search public records and databases for information on every individual with a security clearance at least twice, at random times, every five years. These audits would identify information these individuals are already obligated by law to disclose, including information relating to any criminal or civil legal proceeding, financial information, data maintained on any terrorist or criminal watch list, and any publicly-available information that suggests ill intent or vulnerability to blackmail.
Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill's fight for stronger accountability in Washington.