Need For Security Clearances May Drop As Teleworking Expands

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Having a top-secret clearance may no longer be the insignia of an intel worker, according to the intelligence community’s national counterintelligence chief.

The IC’s [Intelligence Community] culture used to look at having a top-secret clearance as a “pass-fail” test to get in, [William] Evanina said, but that doesn’t mean employees can’t do their jobs from home — as long as it’s done securely.”

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“We are just as successful, with some exceptions, with people working at home than we were before. And I think we have to be flexible and look at our private-sector model and maybe extrapolate that into our intelligence community,” National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said during a May 13 INSA virtual event.

Evanina said he could see not requiring clearances for some positions in the next few years due to teleworking abilities. “Just because you work in the IC, and just because you have a top-secret clearance, does that mean that everything you do is classified?”

“Right now, our communications from home to work is not safe, whether it’s in the private sector, especially not in the government,” he said. “We have to find effective security solutions to get to where we want to be.”

The federal government has been working to improve the security clearance process and reduce its backlog, which once reached more than 700,000 active investigations on agency personnel and contractors that handle sensitive materials.

The government rolled out its much-criticized Trusted Workforce 2.0 framework in 2019, aiming to reduce the amount of time needed to clear new employees and re-investigate those moving across agencies.

The IC merged two hiring processes, for security clearances and employee suitability, into one earlier this year. The move was meant to clarify the role of human resource officers in ensuring candidates were right for job demands.

Evanina said the security clearance backlog has dropped to 180,000, with upwards of 50% more new applications coming in compared to 2019. That target beats the one set by the President’s Management Agenda at a 200,000 caseload of active investigations, and it is a significant dip from the reported 231,000 cases in January.”

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