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FCW : October 2014
October 2014 FCW.COM 25 initial clearance investigations. Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden fit that bill. To perform continuous evaluation, the government would use technology to monitor the activities of individu- als who are cleared to work with the nation’s secrets. Establishing a system that enables such ongoing reviews is a big part of the Cross-Agency Priority Goal of mitigating insider threats and building a trusted workforce. However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is falling behind on plans to implement continuous evalu- ation, according to published progress reports. The interagency report released after the Navy Yard shooting called for ODNI to have continuous evaluation in place for employees and contrac- tors with Top Secret/Sensitive Com- partmented Information clearances by September 2014 and for all TS/SCI personnel by 2016. A quarterly CAP Goals update from the Office of Management and Budget moved the first deadline to December to “accommodate servicing agency IT development” and cautioned that hit- ting even the delayed goal was “at risk.” “Any time you have an enterprise- wide, complex IT project, getting used to that and getting oriented and fine-tun- ing is going to take up time and resourc- es,” said Brian Prioletti, assistant direc- tor of the Special Security Directorate in ODNI’s Office of the National Coun- terintelligence Executive. He added that continuous evaluation was meant to fill in the gaps between the periodic rein- vestigations, not replace them. Kirk McConnell, a professional staff member for the Senate Select Commit- tee on Intelligence, echoed that assess- ment. “There are some impediments to change that have been around for a long time,” he said, “and there’s no reason to think that magically those impediments are going to disappear because now people are really serious about reform.” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is one of the people who are serious about reform. From his perch as chairman of the Homeland Security and Govern- mental Affairs Committee’s Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce Subcom- mittee, he backed legislation to allow OPM’s Office of the Inspector General to access funds to investigate background checks. The bill, which passed the Sen- ate on Sept. 18, is designed to prevent contractors from performing the quality- control reviews of their own work on clearance investigations. Tester is also backing a separate bill that would debar federal employees and contractors with compromised back- ground checks from working on such investigations in the future. “The bottom line is that our nation must be secure,” Tester told FCW in an emailed statement. “That means limit- ing clearances only to those folks who need access to classified information to do their jobs and having a process in place to make sure red flags are raised if any of these folks compromise the integrity of their clearances. The gov- ernment is making progress, but I will continue to provide strong oversight to make sure candidates are properly and thoroughly vetted and that agencies keep better tabs on those who already have clearances.” ‘A long slog’ Meanwhile, the military is moving for- ward with plans to improve the clear- ance process. Ongoing pilot tests of the Army’s Automated Continuous Evalua- tion System (ACES) have shown some success in identifying relevant derogato- ry information about subjects between scheduled reinvestigations. Such infor- mation includes criminal or dishonest conduct, unauthorized disclosure of classified information and other actions that indicate poor judgment, unreliabil- ity or untrustworthiness, according to Army legal guidelines. The Defense Department plans to add 100,000 military and civilian per- sonnel and civilian contractors to the ACES platform this month, said Stephen Lewis, deputy director for personnel, industrial and physical security policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. DOD officials plan to expand continuous evaluation to 225,000 by the end of 2015, 500,000 by the end of 2016 and 1 million by the end of 2017. According to a July 30 notice posted in the Federal Register, ACES will have access to financial and credit databases and arrest and court records held by state, local and tribal governments. News media and social media will also be included, whether the activity is “about or generated by the subject of continuous evaluation,” the notice states. The system will look for “infor- mation about and evidence of unauthor- ized use of information technology sys- tems,” which might have been prompted by revelations that Snowden was a regu- lar commenter in online technology and hacking forums. “This is the future of [continuous evaluation]: not just make a one-time query but get updates as they occur,” Lewis said at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. A Tester aide told FCW that ACES seems to be DOD’s best option but cau- tioned that the promised scalability has yet to be proven. Nevertheless, the people managing the interagency program to mitigate insider threats, which has a goal of reducing the number of people with active security clearances by 10 percent by the end of 2014, are confident that they are on the right track. Carrie Wibben, senior adviser for security and suitability at OMB, said, “We tend to overestimate the amount of change [that can take place] in a year and underestimate what we can change in 10 years.” McConnell was more pointed about the potential for ongoing problems. “Law enforcement, counterintelligence, [human resources], physical security, cyber, network monitoring — all these stovepipes you have to automate and connect up and link with personnel security systems at the same time,” he said. The result is an interagency, mul- tidisciplinary set of problems. “This is going to be a long slog,” he added. “I hope we’re all prepared for that.” ■
September 30, 2014
November and December 2014