VICTORIA EATHERTON, AN ASSOCIATE AT THE FEDERAL PRACTICE GROUP, EXPLAINS WHAT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE UPCOMING CONTINUOUS VETTING PROGRAM

Posted By smay || 23-Apr-2021

Agencies Must Enroll Security Clearance Holders in Continuous Vetting Programs

As part of the federal government’s ongoing initiative to modernize the security clearance process, all federal agencies must enroll the remainder of their employees and contractors holding security clearance in the new continuous vetting program by the end of September 2021. The initiative, known as Trusted Workforce 2.0, phases out periodic reinvestigations and brings a major overhaul to the security clearance process – one that had not seen a facelift in several decades. Under the new continuous vetting model, agencies will have an almost real-time view into their clearance holders’ activity through automated records checks done on a rolling basis. Hopefully, this will enhance national security overall, and also increase efficiencies lost by both agencies and contractors in the hiring and vetting process.

“Our goal is to have the entire DoD cleared population enrolled in the Trusted Workforce continuous vetting compliant program by the end of 2021,” Marianna Martineau, assistant director for adjudications at the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), said last week at a meeting of the National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee.

When the initiative was announced in 2018, backlog in security clearance adjudications was at a high of 725,000 pending cases. Trusted Workforce 2.0, which is being rolled out in phases, focuses on both revamping the security clearance process and modernizing the IT framework used in personnel vetting. Under the previous policy, agencies generally reviewed their clearance holders once every five to ten years. The transition away from periodic reinvestigations not only allows for better vetting, but it shortens the clearance investigation timeline to help reduce backlog. To date, there are about 205,700 cases in the security clearance inventory, a number that continuously fluctuates due to seasonal onboarding but is a significant improvement from the backlog of recent years. While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed many security clearance investigations, we are now seeing a return to target processing times.

While the entire rollout will take some time; the federal government anticipates full implementation in 2022. However, as we approach the enrollment deadline of September, we are already seeing significant progress in the transition to continuous vetting – what many consider to be the most important element of the initiative.

Hopefully, once in full swing, Trusted Workforce 2.0 will allow clearance holders to seamlessly move between federal agencies and the private sector. The mobility of today’s national security workforce means we need efficient transfer of trust determinations and reciprocity between agencies. In the past, for example, DoD might granted an individual a security clearance while DHS denies a clearance to that same individual, a situation unfair to the employee and a drain on resources for the employing agency or contractor. It could also be the case that a risk might go undetected for years because of the timing of the periodic reinvestigation, which often times took place in a delayed manner because of the backlog. Trusted Workforce 2.0 should eliminate these flaws in the security clearance system, although it remains to be seen whether the continual vetting will lead to additional adjudications as potential concerns are discovered more readily.

By Victoria Eatherton of the Federal Practice Group

Categories: Federal Employment Law, Firm News, Security Clearance