A GAO report has found that DoD’s Defense Security Service needs to address some challenges as it pilots a new approach to determine government contractors’ eligibility to access classified information.
DSS is piloting a new approach that requires collaboration with stakeholders such as other federal agencies and contractors, but it has not determined how it will do this. It also faces challenges in administering the National Industrial Security Program, which applies to all executive branch departments and agencies and was established to safeguard federal government classified information that current or prospective contractors may access.
Since GAO last reported on the program in 2005, DSS has streamlined facility clearance and monitoring processes, and strengthened the process for identifying contractors with potential foreign influence.
Under its current approach, DSS officials indicated that they face resource constraints, such as an inability to manage workloads and complete training necessary to stay informed on current threats and technologies. In its most recent report to Congress, DSS stated that it was unable to conduct security reviews at about 60 percent of cleared facilities in fiscal year 2016. Further, DSS recently declared that the United States is facing the most significant foreign intelligence threat it has ever encountered. As a result, in 2017, DSS announced plans to transition to a new monitoring approach to address emerging threats at facilities in the program.
DSS has not addressed immediate challenges that are critical to piloting this new approach. For example, GAO found it is unclear how DSS will determine what resources it needs as it has not identified roles and responsibilities. Moreover, DSS has not established how it will collaborate with stakeholders — government contracting activities, the government intelligence community, other government agencies, and contractors — under the new approach. Federal Internal Control Standards establish the importance of coordinating with stakeholders, including clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
GAO recommends that the director of the Defense Security Service determine how it will collaborate with stakeholders as it pilots a new approach to overseeing contractors with cleared facilities including identifying roles and responsibilities and the related resources needed.