Lawmakers from both parties pan new Obama plan to overhaul security clearances

Thursday, March 03, 2016 by

( The Obama administration’s plan to overhaul the security clearance process has been sent to Congress, where it was promptly and roundly criticized as inadequate.

As reported by Defense One, members of both major parties have problems with the plan, which seeks to establish another federal agency, one that would be tasked with conducting background investigations for security clearances. For one, critics say, it fails to make real, fundamental changes to the manner in which background investigations are conducted.

One change, however, will be the name of the agencies: The Federal Investigative Service will be phased out in lieu of a new office, the National Background Investigative Bureau, but that’s about it, say congressional critics.

As noted by Government Executive, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the new reforms appear to miss their mark – better, tighter and more complete security checks, in order to avoid a repeat of the Edward Snowden intelligence disaster.

However, Obama administration officials defended the plan, saying it makes significant changes in that it provides more security for sensitive data.

“We want to make sure we’re not just putting a coat of fresh paint on a house with a bad foundation,” said Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., voiced similar concerns, though he said he agreed with the administration’s shifting to the Defense Department the task of creating and maintaining a new information technology system where personnel data will be stored.

Still, Lieu voiced concern that the new plan could wind up being “window dressing on a broken home.” Rather, he insisted, the system needs “significant renovation.”

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., openly laughed at Obama officials who were attempting to justify the creation of the NBIB as an improvement over the existing system.

“Folks, hang on to your shorts on this one,” Mica said. “I think we’re headed for another disaster.”

Rather, Mica said background investigations ought to be moved from the Office of Personnel Management’s oversight entirely, suggesting that background checks should be contracted out “one bite at a time.”

Mica instead suggested background investigations be moved from OPM’s purview entirely, saying the checks should be contracted out “one bite at a time.”

Currently the FIS relies heavily on outside contractors to assist with background checks, and the new agency will do so as well.

Mica also suggested that next year during budget talks, lawmakers would have to once again revisit the issue of background checks because the plan being offered would fail to make the improvements sought.

“We’ll be back here in 2017,” Mica said. “I guaran-damn-tee it.”

See also:

Defense One

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