The administration plans to further tighten conditions on granting security clearances–which are a necessary precondition to hold many federal jobs–as part of an overhaul of policies on collecting and protecting background investigation information in light of the hacking of OPM’s databases. One is a commitment to conducting a full reinvestigation every five years regardless of the individual’s level of access; traditional policy has been to do them that often only at top secret and higher levels although the government has been moving toward more frequent reinvestigations for all for several years. Another is carrying out a broad program of “continuous evaluation” to determine whether a clearance holder still meets standards for access. Officials didn’t define that term, but it generally is understood to include real-time monitoring of government and commercial information on such matters as creditworthiness; court, traffic and arrest records; criminal watch lists; and foreign travel and currency transactions. Pilot projects to test such scrutiny have been underway for positions of high sensitivity for about a year. Officials did not provide a time line for those changes, nor specify how they would dovetail with several policy changes recently enacted into law separately–including to require each agency to conduct reinvestigations of clearance holders at least twice every five years at random times, with more frequent checks at the agency’s discretion. Those checks could involve gathering data from similar sources and could include scrutiny of social media postings. Officials meanwhile cited a 17 percent reduction in the number of security clearances–including federal employees, military and contractor personnel–already carried out under a separate initiative underway since late 2013.
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