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Reinvestigations - are they really necessary?

Reinvestigations - Are They Really Necessary?

In early September 1960, an ambitious Cornell University engineering graduate student was hired by a major West Coast aerospace firm. Soon after he began his new job, he learned he needed a security clearance to work on a very sensitive government project. Eager to overcome any obstacles, he completed the appropriate application forms and shortly thereafter received his security clearance.

Almost 30 years have passed since this engineer was cleared. Many of his colleagues have been dazzled by his meteoric climb to the top of the corporate ladder. He was always at the right place at the right time - a true storybook success.

But what about his security clearance? Is an investigation conducted 30 years ago still a predictor of his reliability today? Could he have encountered financial difficulties, developed drug or alcohol dependencies, or suffered emotional problems since he was originally cleared? The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, the engineer could have developed a myriad of problems that affect his ability to safeguard classified information.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has long recognized the risks of neglecting periodic reinvestigations. These risks to national security increase exponentially as each year passes.

It wasn't until 1985 and the Stilwell Commission that the Defense Investigative Service (DIS) was able to begin moving calmly and deliberately toward conducting periodic reinvestigations. The commission emphasized that cleared personnel recruited by hostile intelligence services are a great and probable threat to national security. Nevertheless, the DoD had devoted a relatively small amount of resources to conducting these very important reinvestigations.

By fiscal year 1986, the resource picture began to brighten. Congress approved an additional $25 million for DIS to conduct periodic reinvestigations. The reinvestigations were to be conducted at five-year intervals on individuals holding top secret clearances with access to sensitive information.

The program has since been expanded. DIS is currently reinvestigating personnel who hold secret clearances and are in a special access program and those whose investigations were conducted over six years ago. DIS anticipates completing over 60,000 secret clearance reinvestigations annually for the next 10 years.

Normally, the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) initiates personnel security questionnaire requests for periodic reinvestigations. Recently, however, industrial security representatives have taken the lead in requesting and reviewing questionnaires for submission to DISCO and the Personnel Investigations Center as part of the program.

A periodic reinvestigation was conducted on the engineer mentioned earlier in this article to examine his handling of classified material. Although the engineer still retains his clearance, he now has a heightened sense of the importance of properly safeguarding classified information.

Robert G. Schwalls, CPP, is deputy director of the Defense Investigative Service.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Schwalls, Robert G.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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