[Congressional Record: January 22, 2009 (Extensions)]
[Page E127]                       



                           HON. ANNA G. ESHOO

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, January 22, 2009

  Ms. ESHOO. Madam Speaker, today I am proud to introduce the Security 
Clearance Oversight and Accountability Act. This Act is the result of 
the work the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management of the 
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I'm pleased, Mr. 
Issa, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee during the 110th Congress, 
has again joined me as a co-sponsor of this legislation. I hope we will 
move this legislation quickly, given the strong bipartisan support that 
it enjoys. It will improve our insight into the security clearance 
process, and by doing so, improve the process itself.
  Security clearances are the gateway to serving our Nation in national 
security, homeland security, and many foreign policy positions. Over 
time, the number of Federal employees and contractors holding 
clearances has stretched into the hundreds of thousands, clogging the 
clearance system and creating tremendous backlogs. Following the tragic 
attacks of September 11, 2001, our country faced an urgent need to 
expand its national security workforce, but hiring was hampered, and 
continues to be hampered, by our clearance system. It is imperative, 
especially as we transition to a new Administration, that security 
clearances not be a hindrance to our national security.
  In 2004, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism 
Prevention Act, IRTPA, which contained many provisions to improve the 
security clearance process. During the last Congress, our Subcommittee 
undertook a thorough review of the process and the progress toward 
meeting the goals of the Act. We had round-table meetings with 
representatives of industry and representatives of the Intelligence 
Community agencies. We carefully reviewed all reports submitted in 
response to the Intelligence Reform Act as well as GAO reports on 
security clearance reform in the Department of Defense. We held a 
series of open hearings with Administration witnesses and GAO to 
discuss accomplishments and areas where progress was lacking and we 
intend to continue that oversight in the 111th Congress. This bill will 
assist us in that task while improving the quality of our security 
  In addition to our own oversight, we requested that the GAO review 
the security clearance processes inside the Intelligence Community and 
report its findings. GAO brings decades of experience and deep 
expertise to this task. For more than 20 years its experts have 
examined the personnel security practices in the Department of Defense. 
This is the first time that Intelligence Community security practices 
will be subjected to such scrutiny. We look forward to Intelligence 
Community's cooperation with the GAO and to reviewing the results of 
GAO's work.
  This bill is designed to remedy the shortcomings we identified last 
Congress. It takes a new approach to reform by requiring agencies to 
report to Congress annually on certain metrics related to the security 
clearance process. The metrics in this bill would enable Congress and 
HPSCI to perform effective oversight, would allow both branches to 
track improvements from year to year, and would allow agencies to judge 
the effectiveness of each other's security clearance process, improving 
confidence in the system. In a few areas where adequate metrics have 
not been developed, the Administration is required to propose metrics 
to Congress.
  Just a few weeks ago, the Administration's Joint Security and 
Security Reform Team issued its proposal for security clearance process 
transformation. Their vision of a transformed process includes 
consolidated databases, interactive electronic applications, 
investigative techniques tailored to individual cases, automated 
investigation tools, automated clearance adjudication, and a more 
aggressive reinvestigation schedule for individual holding security 
clearances. Many of these reforms were required by the IRTPA and I am 
pleased to see their long-delayed implementation.
  The security clearance process is a key to our national security 
establishment and we must make sure that it works as efficiently as 
possible. An effective security clearance system keeps out those who 
pose a security risk, while quickly identifying those who are 
trustworthy to work in the system. For too long it has been a troubled 
system. This legislation will allow us to confirm the necessary 
progress we must make in this critical area.