Fedweek

A bill ready for a Senate vote when Congress returns from its summer recess would make substantial changes to many policies relating to security clearances, which are necessary to get, and maintain, many federal jobs.

The intelligence community reauthorization bill (S-1589) would address many of the concerns that employees express about the waiting time they must undergo to obtain clearances or have them renewed. Similar language is in the version (HR-3494) already passed by the House; Senate passage would set up a conference between the two chambers.

Both versions would set new goals for timeliness, including to issue 90 percent of initial determinations for secret and top secret clearances within 30 and 90 days, respectively; and to accept 90 percent of security clearances for employees moving between federal agencies within two weeks if the clearances are equivalent.

Also, not more than 10 percent of all clearance holders would still be subject to full reinvestigation at set intervals to determine whether they should continue to hold their clearance. “CBO expects that the method used to replace periodic reinvestigations would include, but not be limited to, the use of automated records checks,” a CBO analysis says.

It adds that the Senate version contains several provisions not in the House version. One would require the Security Executive Agent to establish a panel to review decisions made by agencies to revoke or deny security clearances.

“If the panel determines that an agency violated an individual’s rights or that the decision to revoke or deny an individual’s clearance was based on an improperly conducted review by the agency, the panel would vacate the agency’s decision and send the case back to the agency for a new review. If an agency subsequently determines that it wrongfully denied or revoked an individual’s clearance, it would be required to take corrective action to return the person to the position they would have held if the improper denial or revocation had not occurred. Such corrective action also may include a compensation payment of up to $300,000 for any lost wages or benefits, or expenses otherwise incurred,” it said.

Further, the Senate bill would require agencies to create electronic portals through which employees could learn the status of their clearance investigations.

Differences between the two would have to be addressed in the House-Senate conference.

Both versions however would provide up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave per 12 months for employees of intelligence community agencies. That would be more narrow than language the House passed in a separate bill to grant that much paid leave to all federal employees for not only parental purposes but also for personal and family medical issues.

Read more about security clearances for federal jobs at ask.FEDweek.com