Senate Intel Vice Chairman Mark Warner urges White House to make security clearance reform top priority

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged the Trump Administration to prioritize reforms to the security clearance process.

In a letter to the White House, Sen. Warner urged Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to “personally apply the utmost priority to personnel security clearance reform. In the letter, which follows an Intelligence Committee hearing last week on the same topic, Sen. Warner called the current system “inadequate” and said reforms were necessary to recruit and retain a trusted national security workforce.

“The background investigation inventory has more than doubled in the last three years, with over 700,000 people currently waiting on a background check. Costs to run a check have nearly doubled, and timelines to process clearances far exceed the standards set in law. Furthermore, prompt recognition of security clearances granted at one agency at another is uneven. These inefficiencies cost the taxpayer millions of dollars, sap morale and productivity, and harm our nation’s security,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee held an open hearing on security clearance reform featuring representatives from industry and a number of the government agencies with jurisdiction over the clearance process. During questioning, Vice Chairman Warner pressed government officials to make needed improvements, and heard from industry representatives about ways the clearance process could be reformed via legislation.

Back in January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) placed the security clearance process on its “high risk” list – the areas of government that need broad-based transformation or reforms. At a February hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats called the security clearance process system “broken” and acknowledged that it must be reformed.

“We need a ‘whole of government’ approach to tackling this challenge – by harnessing the power of modern technology, instituting processes like ‘continuous evaluation,’ ensuring adequate funding, and ensuring uniform standards. These things require the Administration’s top officials to treat security clearance as an urgent priority,” noted the Senator in today’s letter to General Kelly and General McMaster.

Last month, Sen. Warner penned an op-ed in the Cipher Brief highlighting the need for reforming the security clearance process.