- Consultative Support and Assistance
- Automated Continuing Evaluation System (ACES)
- Automated Decision Support & eAdjudication
- Cybervetting and CyberPsychology Security Risks
- Personality Disorders that are Security and Safety Risks
- Investigation and Adjudication Quality
- Improved Insider Threat Detection and Mitigation
- Migration of the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS)
- Guides for Security Professionals
- Consolidation of DoD Central Adjudication Facilities
- Espionage: History, Motivations of Spies, Case Examples of American Spies
Consultative Support and Assistance
PERSEREC provides direct support and assistance to personnel security policymakers in a number of government agencies. We provide quick response studies and analyses for the DoD Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence and Security). In addition, a PERSEREC program manager and other staff members participate in regular Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team (JSSRT) leadership meetings and specific Strategic Framework demonstration and evaluation projects regarding automated record checks and continuing evaluation. PERSEREC also provides input on JSSRT policy proposals such as revisions to the Federal Investigative Standards.Back to list
Automated Continuing Evaluation System (ACES)
ACES was developed by PERSEREC over a period of several years as an automated approach to assessing eligibility for access to classified information in between an initial background investigation and a periodic reinvestigation (PR) or, during the career of a cleared employee, in between PRs. As this program has developed, however, its potential for streamlining the expensive and time-consuming clearance process is becoming apparent. Use of ACES may help avoid costs associated with the use of manual investigative leads by triggering case expansion only when necessary and through the replacement of record checks that are not fully automated. With regard to response to the insider threat, when fully operational, ACES will offer to the DoD earlier detection and intervention and an increased range of issues for determining vulnerabilities. Human resources will be required only when issues of concern are discovered.
The system, as it currently stands, can query over 40 different government and commercial database records to identify cleared personnel who appear to be engaging in behaviors of security concern that may indicate personal vulnerability (e.g., substance abuse, criminal behavior, or financial problems) or possibly espionage-related activities (e.g., unexplained affluence). Additional databases are currently being added or evaluated for their productivity of security-relevant information.
ACES utilizes sources of information pertaining to the 13 Adjudicative Guidelines for determining eligibility for access to classified information. In 2008 the ACES system was used to demonstrate the productivity of an Automated Record Check (ARC)-enabled case flagging strategy. This research supported subsequent revision of the federal investigative standards to authorize and require ARC-enabled expandable focused investigations. The ACES system is currently being utilized in various pilot evaluations of the Automated Record Check capability by the Joint Security and Suitability Reform Effort. The system is also providing data feeds required for pilot testing and evaluation of the Financial Disclosure Analysis System.
Possible uses in the future for ACES include (1) the triggering of expanded investigations when it detects new issues, (2) record checks to support initial investigations and continuous evaluations, and (3) its use in concert with other systems to trigger counterintelligence (CI) investigations when issues of CI concern are detected. We anticipate that ACES will be a major component of future plans to restructure and automate the DoD personnel security system in response to National Intelligence Reform Act mandates and for bringing the clearance process into line with risk-management principles.Back to list
Adjudication Decision Support & eAdjudication
The Adjudication Decision Support (ADS) initiative explores the use of computer automation to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of determining eligibility for access to classified information (the granting of security clearances). The security clearance process involves two main steps: investigation and adjudication. First, personnel security investigators collect information about an individual’s personal history as it relates to loyalty, trustworthiness, and reliability. This background information serves as the basis for determining clearance eligibility. Adjudication is the process of reviewing this information and rendering a decision. Research results suggest that an ADS system can reliably process the electronic results of personnel security investigations, i.e., “e-Adjudicate” the information and, consequently, eliminate the need for human adjudicative review (“h-Adjudication”) of investigations that contain acceptably minor adverse information.
An automated ADS system greatly shortens case processing times for the cleanest cases, facilitates the initial review of complex cases by adjudicators, reduces the workload for adjudicators, increases adjudication consistency, and facilitates the assignment of complex cases to adjudicators with relevant expertise. This automated clean-case screening system makes use of information on policy, criteria comparable to those of expert adjudicators, and empirical research to reach determinations that accord with the Federal standards outlined in the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. In addition, the system reliably detects and documents adverse information of security concern to maintain the integrity of the process.
The ADS system processes investigative information typically gathered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for the DoD and is expected to be integrated with other automated record checks available through the Automated Continuing Evaluation System (ACES). The ADS decision rules and technology were thoroughly tested to ensure that cases can be approved without increasing risks to national security. Approximately 30% of SECRET-level clearances for DoD organizations using ADS electronic adjudication (eAdjudication) are automatically approved. eAdjudication rules are being developed for additional security investigation types as well as for application to suitability background investigations. ADS is currently saving the government, industry and taxpayers millions of dollars, and substantially expediting the process of clearance applications and renewals. In coordination with a governmentwide Joint Suitability and Security Reform effort, ADS eAdjudication (implemented in DoD in February 2009) is being expanded to include other agencies. Approximately 50% of all personnel security and suitability investigations may eventually be eligible for expedited approval by an ADS system.Back to list
Cybervetting and CyberPsychology Security Risks
Cybervetting can be defined as checking blogs, social media sites, and other Internet-based sources to identify issues of security concern applicable to people holding or seeking positions of trust. PERSEREC’s initial effort entailed working with the national security and law enforcement communities to identify the primary legal, privacy, policy, and procedural considerations that should be taken into account when establishing a cybervetting program. Pilot projects are planned to test the efficacy of cybervetting. In addition, a series of CyberPsychology studies are exploring how certain types of activities in cyber environments, such as Second Life, can spill over into negative affects on workplace reliability, judgment, and other areas of personnel security concern.Back to list
Personality Disorders that are Security and Safety Risks
Security and safety problems are sometimes caused by individuals with particular personality disorders. Identifying such individuals is difficult because: (1) traditional clinical personality assessment methods have diagnostic weaknesses, and (2) there is insufficient information on which personality disorders relate to the greatest security, safety and reliability risks. To address these challenges, PERSEREC initiated a two-phase study. In Phase I, 20 personnel security adjudicators from four government adjudication centers served as expert raters on behavioral characteristics that are security risks. The raters identified the characteristics of a hypothetical risky person using the 200 behaviors of the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure (SWAP)-a validated and recognized personality assessment instrument designed to assess aspects of personality that are neither accessible via self-report nor readily observable by others. Successful results were used to develop item weights for the Dispositional Indicators of Risk Exposure (DIRE)-a new SWAP scale. In the Phase II field test, clinicians used the SWAP/DIRE method to evaluate the security and mental health fitness of individuals employed in a sensitive government nuclear program. Clinicians reported that the SWAP and DIRE significantly improved their ability to assess important aspects of employees’ mental fitness, including the presence of risky personality disorders. Phase III research results continue to support the criterion validity of DIRE with respect to behaviors of security and safety concern.Back to list
Investigation & Adjudication Quality
PERSEREC developed tools that have been implemented in DoD to assess the quality of personnel security investigations (PSIs) received by DoD central adjudication facilities (CAF’s) as well as the documentation accuracy of adjudication decisions made by DoD adjudicators. Quality review helps promote standardization and contributes to goals specified in Executive Order 13467. The success of PERSEREC’s quality review program was instrumental in the 2011 decision by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to remove DoD’s personnel security clearance program from GAO’s list of "High Risk" program areas. These quality review tools play a critical ongoing role in empirically assessing personnel security program strengths and problems, and bringing them to the attention of stakeholder groups such as Office of Personnel Management (OPM), DoD adjudication facility representatives, and the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (DUSD (I&S)). PERSEREC quality initiatives recently implemented by DoD include the online "Rapid Assessment of Incomplete Security Evaluations" (RAISE) for monitoring investigation quality, and the "Review of Adjudication Documentation Accuracy and Rationales" (RADAR) for monitoring adjudication documentation quality.Back to list
Improved Insider Threat Detection and Mitigation
Reviews of serious incidents, such as the Ft. Hood tragedy and Wikileaks data case found failures to capitalize on available information in detecting and monitoring potential insider threats. Despite red flags that should have triggered a response, critical information was either not assessed, mismanaged or not reported to commanders and supervisors in a position to act. PERSEREC is undertaking an initiative to improve the identification and management of DoD personnel who pose a safety or security threat. One aspect of this initiative focuses on improving the monitoring of personnel with security clearances through use of additional public records and appropriate social media data. We are determining the utility of these information sources and the conditions where their use is both legal and consistent with individual privacy protections. The goal is to develop a risk rating tool that provides early detection and automatic alerts to commanders, supervisors and other relevant officials when insider threats are present. A second aspect of this initiative focuses on making known relevant derogatory information more accessible to commanders. Presently, much of this information resides in temporary files maintained by local commanders. A need exists to bring this information into a central repository where it can be made available to commanders when concerns about service members’ radicalization, trust betrayal, potential for violence, unreliability, or unsuitable performance arise.Back to list
Migration of the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS)
PERSEREC is participating in a multi-agency effort within DoD to prepare the
Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) database for migration to its
successor system, the Joint Verification System (JVS). JVS will be a
component the Defense Information System for Security (DISS) family of
systems being developed as part of the effort to reform the security
clearance process within the federal government. PERSEREC’s roles in the
migration effort include identifying problematic data, ensuring data is
accurately transferred from the old to the new system, assisting with design
of mapping data elements from the old system to the new one, and lending
subject matter expertise to aid in the design of the new system. A small
team of PERSEREC analysts are working closely with personnel at the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) and
the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to complete the transition, and going forward PERSEREC will continue to
play a role in the new JVS, providing data validation and analysis services.
Guides for Security Professionals
PERSEREC is currently updating two guides for use by security professionals.
The Adjudicative Desk Reference (ADR) is a comprehensive, web-based reference work for personnel security adjudicators, investigators, and managers. It is a comprehensive collection (about 600 pages) of background information about the issues covered by the 13 adjudicative guidelines. For each guideline, such as Alcohol Consumption, it provides information that an adjudicator or manager might want to know about that behavior (i.e. alcohol abuse or dependence) before making a decision, or that an investigator should know in order to formulate the right questions. This background information about the adjudicative issue areas is not U.S. Government policy, so it may not be cited as authority for denial or suspension of access. It is a job aid to assist personnel security adjudicators, investigators, and managers in implementing the U. S. Government personnel security program. The ADR has also been useful to appeals panels and lawyers dealing with security clearance decisions, personnel officers making suitability and trustworthiness decisions, and Employee Assistance Program counselors. The ADR is being updated to reflect changes in the adjudicative guidelines and new academic research on the topics covered by these guidelines.
The Online Guide to Security Responsibilities is a comprehensive, web-based collection of security and threat awareness information. It is intended to make almost everything an organization might want its personnel to know about security, or that your personnel might want to know, available on their computer desktop with a few clicks of a mouse. Organizations can customize it, if desired, to fit their specific needs. It is also a good source of material for security professionals preparing awareness briefings or articles for newsletters. Topics covered include procedures for protecting both classified and sensitive unclassified information, standards of personal conduct, foreign espionage methods and threats, risks associated with foreign travel, counterintelligence and terrorism, spy stories, computer vulnerabilities, vulnerability to communication intercept and eavesdropping, and more. In hard copy, there are over 600 pages of material. This online guide was updated in January of 2012.Back to list
Consolidation of DoD Central Adjudication Facilities (CAF’s)
In 1990, PERSEREC assisted DoD with efforts to consolidate DoD adjudication facilities from 18 to eight. In concert with Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC)-mandated Central Adjudication Facility (CAF) collocation to Ft. Meade, Maryland, PERSEREC was asked to help with further efforts to consolidate DoD adjudication. PERSEREC supported the initial phase of the consolidation efforts by compiling and integrating working group evaluations of various consolidation concepts, including the consolidation concept the group presented to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence for approval. During the second, or Implementation Planning phase, PERSEREC assisted by compiling implementation plans drafted by groups responsible for key components of the consolidation. PERSEREC also prepared the Workload Analysis portion of the implementation plan that was presented to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for approval. PERSEREC is now leading the workload analysis effort, with input from the current CAF’s, OUSD(P&R) and other stakeholders. The workload analysis will help lay the foundation for the consolidation by identifying operational responsibilities of the Joint CAF and the resources required to meet those responsibilities. The Joint CAF is expected to improve the efficiency and standardization of collateral security and suitability determinations, (e.g., through implementation of automated electronic adjudication “eAdjudication” tools designed by PERSEREC) including new vetting requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12)Back to list
Espionage: History, Motivations of Spies, Case Examples of American Spies
In addition to the August 2009 report Espionage and Other Compromises of National Security – Case Summaries from 1975 to 2008, three technical reports on espionage have been published based on the PERSEREC espionage database, the most recent in March 2008. The focus of this March 2008 report is on changes and trends in espionage by Americans since 1990, compared with two earlier periods during the Cold War.
In the report individuals are studied in three groups based on when they began espionage activities: between 1947 and 1979, between 1980 and 1989, and between 1990 and 2007. Findings include: offenders since 1990 were more likely to be naturalized citizens, and to have foreign attachments, connections, and ties than in earlier periods. They were more likely to demonstrate these ties by being motivated to spy from divided loyalties. Twice as many American espionage offenders since 1990 have been civilians than have been members of the military, fewer held Top Secret while more held Secret access, and 37% had no access to classified information themselves. Two-thirds of American spies volunteered since 1990. The number of persons sending information to Russia plummeted since 1990, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, while increasing numbers have sent information to Asian and Latin American nations. The percentage who received no payment for espionage has increased to 80% since 1990, while recent spies are more likely than in earlier periods to be sent to prison. Substance abuse has declined among American spies since 1990. Among financial motives, debt remained the most common for financial espionage; motives held by one-third of individuals included debt. These and additional findings from this research offer insight into the trends in espionage by Americans, and suggestions for appropriate ways to focus counter-espionage efforts.Back to list