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Keeping national secrets secret.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (DOE), through several private contractors, operates and maintains all the federal government's nuclear weapons research and production facilities. The sensitivity of these operations and the importance of maintaining strict control over them to ensure national security is unquestionable. The importance of having reliable employees[1] conduct these operations also is unquestionable.

To protect the country's nuclear technology, DOE has established a comprehensive system of physical and personnel security controls. These controls prevent individuals or external groups from entering DOE facilities and obtaining special nuclear materials (SNMs) or causing damage to those facilities. (SNMs are materials produced for use in nuclear weapons research, development, and production.)

The core of the personnel security controls is the security clearance granted to DOE employees. Security clearances range from L, the lowest level, to various levels of Q, the highest level. Employees are granted one of DOE's four security clearances after personnel security specialists investigate their background, credit, references, and other sources. The clearance process is intended to eliminate people whose trustworthiness, based on previous behavior, may be questionable. Under normal conditions this process is sufficient.

The clearance process does not, however, ensure that employees will remain reliable. Compromise of national security by employees may still

[1] This refers to an individual's dependability, trustworthiness, or freedom from any condition that could adversely influence the person's judgment. be possible, and therefore, employees are targets for coercion by outside groups. Employees can provide information on security systems, material location and transportation methods, and production methods. Such information would make stealing sensitive material or damaging facilities much simpler. Additionally, employees, for a variety of reasons, may steal material or damage facilities themselves.

Another concern is that employees may have or develop a physical, emotional, or mental condition that could impair their judgment and cause them to endanger a facility through inadequate, unpredictable, or unsafe job performance. The absence of periodic evaluations may allow one of these conditions to develop in an employee without others noticing an outward change in the person's behavior until it is too late.

Studies show several factors affect employees' reliability: financial problems, ideological commitments, drug or alcohol abuse, job dissatisfaction, and psychological or emotional instability (permanent or temporary). Periodically evaluating employees working in a designated sensitive position significantly reduces possible insider threat. With this point in mind, DOE and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Tennessee developed the Personnel Security Assurance Program (PSAP), a comprehensive evaluation and training program for DOE and contractor employees at all levels.

ORAU was given two charges. The first was to develop a review process of an employee's background that could identify possible unreliable conditions, thereby reducing the chances of an employee becoming a risk to the national security. The second was to develop, in conjunction with this process, a program for employees and managers at all levels to acquaint them with the review process and train them to recognize conditions that could lead to national security risks. The program also would instruct these individuals on the proper management of the PSAP.

The ORAU criteria established that anyone in a position with unlimited access to significant quantities of SNMs[2] is subject to the PSAP. Also, individuals who directly supervise employees in PSAP positions and others designated by the site manager are subject to the PSAP.

Although these criteria eliminate the majority of DOE and contractor employees' positions, over 17,000 positions still fall within the PSAP requirements. These positions are indicated by an R after the Q security designation. (The R stands for reliability, designated during the initial stages of development when the program was called the Human Reliability Program.)

The position, not the employee, is given the Q(R) designation. When an employee moves from a Q(R) position, regardless of the reason, the designation does not go with him or her. This control limits the number of employees who have Q(R) designations and, therefore, have access to SNMs.

Using the present Q clearance process as the basis for the PSAP, ORAU augmented its criteria by requiring employees in the designated positions to be evaluated annually, a requirement vital to the program's success. This evaluation helps uncover changes in the mental, emotional, or physical condition of employees that could result in a security risk.

The PSAP consists of four main categories of assessment: an immediate supervisor review, a contractor's medical review, a contractor's management review, and a security review by a DOE field office.

The supervisor's review is an important part of the process. As first-line managers, supervisors have the most contact with employees in PSAP positions. By observing employees' attitudes, general demeanors, work habits, and interpersonal relationships every day, supervisors can construct a mental profile of each employee. Deviations from the profile, unusual behavior, or evidence of severe stress should be noticeable to supervisors, allowing them to refer employees to the medical department for additional evaluation. Supervisors must sign annually a written statement for each employee stating that in their opinion the employee is reliable and free from conditions that might affect judgment and pose a threat to security.

For new PSAP applicants or transfers from non-PSAP positions, supervisors ensure that appropriate preemployment checks are conducted. Additionally, supervisors confirm that prospective employees understand and accept the responsibilities and requirements of the PSAP. All of this must be accomplished before the individual is recommended to DOE for hiring. This process allows the contractor to discover any information that would disqualify the applicant and to terminate the application process, thus preventing the unnecessary time and expense of a DOE security check.

The medical review evaluates several areas. Besides a thorough physical examination by a doctor, the applicant is screened for alcohol dependence and drug use and receives a psychological evaluation. If necessary, the applicant is referred to a certified psychologist of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) for further evaluation. These examinations are designed to identify physical, emotional, or mental conditions that may cause applicants to be security risks. The physician also signs the form annually, which states that in his opinion the employee has no medical condition that might affect reliability or judgment.

After applicants are hired, evaluations are done annually to detect early on conditions that may develop that could affect their reliability or judgment. If such a condition is detected, the physician can recommend temporary restrictions or a temporary reassignment to a non-PSAP position until the condition is corrected.

The initial granting of the Q(R) clearance requires that a 15-year background investigation have been completed on the individual within the last five years. This includes a security review consisting of a credit check and a national and local criminal records check. Additionally, a review and update of the employee's DOE personnel security file must be completed annually. (As stated above, the contractor has already conducted a background check of the individual). Employees who qualify for the Q(R) designation require a field reinvestigation every five years. The decision to grant or continue the Q(R) qualification is made by the DOE field office after a review of all available information by a senior DOE personnel security specialist.

Creating the PSAP involved developing a training program to accomplish two objectives. The first objective was for DOE, contractor managers, and PSAP administrators (those individuals directly managing the program) to become familiar with their responsibilities in managing the program. These responsibilities include establishing a training program for their own employees to acquaint them with the objectives, policies, and requirements of the PSAP and employees' rights in the DOE administrative review process;' give them an understanding of security concerns; and educate them on the characteristics of unusual behavior. The training program is not expected to make employees behavior analysts, only to make them more aware of what may cause unusual behavior and how it may manifest itself.

The second objective was to educate the PSAP administrators and DOE contractors with the required records management to run the program effectively and efficiently. Records must be maintained on each employee indicating the dates and the subjects of any training received, along with dates for the next required training. Managing these records can be enhanced by using the Training Records Management System (TRMS), a computerized data base developed for DOE by Martin Marietta Energy Systems in Oak Ridge, TN. Additionally, a training schedule must be established to ensure program consistency, along with a method to periodically review the content of the program to reflect changes in plans and procedures (a quality assurance program).

Both objectives were completed by conducting a series of one-week seminars for the appropriate managers and administrators. All aspects of the program were covered, along with the presentation of instructional and training manuals that could be used at the sites. Recommended lesson plans and other training materials were provided and explained to the seminar participants. However, each site is responsible for developing and implementing a training program for its personnel based on its own assessment of its training requirements.

In January 1989, DOE Order 5631.6, authorizing the establishment of the PSAP, was signed by the secretary of energy. All nuclear facilities under DOE management were required to submit implementation plans to their respective operations offices (offices with oversight responsibilities of the various nuclear facilities within a specified region) within 90 days of the initiation of the order.

Two primary problems are associated with immediate, full implementation of the PSAP-personnel and money. Neither the contractors at the nuclear facilities nor the DOE operations offices were allocated additional resources to execute the pr ing this fiscal year. This means each contractor and operations office must designate this responsibility to someone currently employed in another capacity. DOE intends to allocate money and personnel for the PSAP in the next fiscal year. Some contractor sites and operations offices, however, anticipated the introduction of the program (it has been in development for several years) and have made limited additions to their staff to manage the program once it was signed into existence by DOE.

An analysis of each operations office's personnel staffing will be conducted to help determine the number of personnel required to manage the program effectively. This analysis, along with monetary considerations, will establish the number of personnel each operations office will require to manage the PSAP. An equal, across-theboard increase for all operations offices would not be equitable since each operations office would process a different number of PSAP personnel, depending on the size and number of nuclear facilities each is responsible for.

The PSAP is designed to manage the personnel who have access to SNMs on a routine basis. Screening personnel who handle or have access to the final product, a nuclear weapon, is managed through another personnel security program called the Personnel Assurance Program (PAP). The PSAP and the PAP complement each other and promise a well-protected DOE nuclear research and production program.

At a time when increasing public scrutiny is placed on DOE operations and the security of its nuclear research and production facilities, the PSAP is an important component in the overall improvement of that security and the department's public image. This program helps greatly to ensure that employees who have access to SNMs are reliable, trustworthy, and not susceptible to coercion or vulnerable to making irrational judgments that could result in a life-threatening situation to themselves, their coworkers, or the general public.

About the Author . Steven W. Nessel is a special training instructor for DOE's Central Training Academy in Albuquerque, NM. Prior to that, Nessel worked for ORAU in Washington, DC, assisting in the development of the PSAP. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Nessel, Steven W.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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