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Tester Takes Tax-Delinquent Contractors to Task

Servicemember stressed about finances.

ational Security

Holding a security clearance means being responsible not just for yourself, but for your country. While it’s important for your own sake to maintain sound finances, it’s also a matter of national security. Being in debt or shirking fiscal responsibilities makes you a target of opportunity for foreign agents, and also signals that you may not be responsible enough to hold a security clearance. There are plenty of resources to maintain good finances, so use them well.

(BIG SANDY, Mont.) - Senator Jon Tester, who is leading the charge to reform the security clearance background check process, is taking aim at a new target: Defense Department contractors holding security clearances who aren't paying their taxes.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that approximately 83,000 Defense Department contractors and employees have failed

to pay more than $730 million in taxes. These same individuals could have security clearances and access to the nation's most sensitive information.

Tester wants Director of National Security James Clapper to take action and send the message that failing to pay taxes is not only a slap-in-the-face to law-abiding taxpayers, but in this case, also jeopardizes national security.

"This unacceptable situation raises national security concerns and sends the message to taxpayers that some folks don't have to play by the rules, but can still be trusted with access to our nation's most sensitive information," Tester told Clapper. "Given the scope of this problem and the amount of debt involved, I urge you to address this matter comprehensively and promptly."

Tester wants Clapper to more thoroughly investigate applicants' financial backgrounds during the background check process, describe how the government plans to recoup the $730 million in unpaid taxes and take action to restrict the access of employees or contractors with unpaid taxes.

"Some of these individuals with delinquent tax debt are jeopardizing our national security because of poor judgment and decision-making," said Tester, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. "Potentially harmful financial behaviors should not be ignored after an individual is granted or deemed eligible to have a security clearance."

Tester previously reformed the security clearance process when he successfully passed his Security Clearance Oversight Reform (SCORE) Act into law. The law, which responds to inadequacies in the security clearance process, allows the Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to use resources from the agency's $2 billion Revolving Fund to more thoroughly investigate cases where the integrity of the background check process may have been compromised. He is also continuing to push his SCARE Act to increase accountability and transparency in the security clearance process.

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