NEWS + ADVICE
Proposed Security Clearance Reforms Detail Navy Yard Shooter Missteps
87 percent of OPM’s security clearance background investigation files are “incomplete.”
Parts of the report are a fascinating read. Particularly the detailed step-by-step red flags in the background of Navy Yard Shooter Aaron Alexis. From arrests for mischief to eight citings for misconduct while in the Navy Reserve, Alexis is a particularly troubling example of how the system can break down.
When the clearance process was last reformed ten years ago the emphasis was on speed. Getting people through the process due to the urgent needs of a country fighting two wars.
An emphasis on speed over thoroughness as well as oddities of the process – law enforcement agencies don’t cooperate? investigators can’t use the internet? – mean that there is broad agreement that it’s time for the clearance process to be reformed.
Some of the report’s proposed fixes include:
Continuous monitoring. Neither Alexis nor his commanding officers reported his questionable conduct after he received a Secret clearance. A lot can happen before a periodic reinvestigation takes place and relying on the parties involved to self-report doesn’t always work.
Allowing investigators to use the internet and social media. The Investigator’s Handbook forbids using the internet to obtain investigative information. This will lead to new issues, but the rewards should outweigh the risks.
Allowing communication between Adjudicators and Investigators. Yes, this doesn’t currently happen.
Assisting investigators in better capturing mental health information. This typically falls through the cracks with an automated Secret clearance evaluation. A Top Secret clearance relies on self-reporting.
Getting better cooperation from local law enforcement cooperation. Over 450 local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with OPM on background investigations, including New York City, Baltimore and Washington, DC.