PERSEREC was established in response to a recommendation by the Department of Defense (DoD) Security Review Commission (known as the Stilwell Commission), set up in the wake of the very damaging Walker espionage case, to improve the department’s personnel security system. In its 1985 report, the commission called for a personnel security research center to provide policymakers with an objective basis for policies and processes related to the security clearance system. Established in 1986, PERSEREC was located in Monterey, CA, because of its proximity to the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) West and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), where there was already a nucleus of personnel security researchers.

Our original directive included a sunset clause requiring that the organization cease to exist in 1990 unless DoD directed its continued existence. Based on a favorable review by DoD components of PERSEREC’s performance, this clause was eliminated in 1992 and we became a permanent element within the DoD. The beneficial effect of the sunset clause was to force us to focus on creating practical benefits for the personnel security system. (See the section on Past Achievements for some of these benefits.)

Since 1986, PERSEREC’s mission has evolved in response to changing needs and opportunities. Several years after the end of the Cold War, we were tasked to evaluate security awareness briefings throughout the intelligence community to ensure that the briefings had been modified to take the changed security environment into account. When the increasing need for reciprocity of clearances led to greater standardization of procedures, PERSEREC drafted the first Federal communitywide version of the Adjudicative Guidelines, approved by the President in 1997. We also drafted the updated version approved by the President in 2006.

Because of our continuing focus on personnel security and the clearance program, we have made a systematic attempt to analyze and track patterns of malicious insider behavior by Americans who have been arrested for espionage and other insider crimes against the United States since 1947. Consequently, we have become a principal provider of unclassified information on espionage and insider computer misuse to the security community.

Changing technology has had a major impact on our work. As soon as the Internet became available, we began developing web-based products for the dissemination of relevant reference and training materials to the personnel security and counterintelligence communities. More recently, with the development of automated databases, a primary focus of our activities has been on the automation of the investigative process. What began as an automated process for the continuous evaluation of cleared personnel is now developing as a cost- and time-saving method for conducting initial clearance investigations through database checks. This method ultimately will save the government millions of dollars.

We also have developed and refined technologies to improve decision-making and diagnostic processes for security and human reliability programs. For example, in coordination with the Joint Suitability and Security Reform Effort, our eAdjudication, or automated adjudication, system was implemented across a number of agencies, shortening the case processing times, reducing costs, and improving the consistency of security clearance decisions. This technology is now being adapted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process for making employment suitability decisions. In mitigating security, safety and reliability risks associated with personality disorders, we have developed and validated an assessment instrument that efficiently assesses dysfunctional aspects of personality that are neither accessible via self report nor readily observable by others.