In recent years the Department of Defense (DoD) has been recognized for the steady progress it is making toward meeting the strategic goals of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) as Security Executive Agent (SecEA) with responsibility for improving the personnel security system. Six of seven initiatives singled out at a congressional hearing as reasons for DoD’s success were designed and tested by the Defense Personnel and Security Research Center (PERSEREC). Initiative summaries include:
The Adjudicative Desk Reference (ADR) is a comprehensive collection of background information on the 13 categories of behavior considered when determining an individual’s eligibility for a security clearance. This background information is not U.S. Government policy and may not be cited as authority for denial or revocation of access. It recently has been updated and recommended by the Security Executive Agent Advisory Committee as a job aid to assist security clearance adjudicators, personnel security investigators, and security managers in implementing personnel security policy. It has also proven useful to appeals panels and lawyers dealing with security clearance decisions, personnel officers making suitability and trustworthiness decisions, and Employee Assistance Program counselors.
This web-based guide is an unclassified, automated, comprehensive reference work that makes a wide range of security and threat awareness information readily accessible with a few mouse clicks on the computer desktop of all employees. It brings the information revolution to security awareness and education. It is intended to be customized to meet an organization’s specific circumstances and needs. It can be downloaded and installed on an organization’s local area network (LAN) or intranet, and then promoted as a centerpiece of its security awareness program. The most recent version (5.1) of this guide was released in April 2012.
The DoD Adjudicator Certification Program (ACP) was developed by PERSEREC and implemented by USD(I) in July 2010. The program applies to the Personnel Security Adjudicators at the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoD CAF). Certification, which in 2012 became mandatory for all adjudicators having signatory authority, is based on a prescribed program of training, a period of required on-the-job experience, and comprehensive testing following training and experience. Certification must be maintained by at least 30 hours of continuing professional education in each 2-year period following initial certification. The program is administered by the Defense Security Service (DSS), Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE), and is provided policy oversight by the DoD Director of Security as advised by a Certification Governing Board that includes a PERSEREC representative as a non-voting member. PERSEREC continues to support the CDSE with regard to program evaluation and enhancements.
Based on national security policy and the best practices of expert adjudicators, empirical research was used to develop an automated electronic adjudication (aka "eAdjudication") method that reliably detects and documents adverse information of security concern in the results of background investigations for individuals needing to obtain or renew a security clearance. Starting in 2009, approximately 30% of SECRET level clearances for DoD organizations using eAdjudication were automatically approved, saving the government, industry, and taxpayers millions of dollars, and substantially expediting the process of clearance applications and renewals.
PERSEREC developed a system for assessing the completeness and quality of security clearance background investigative results sent to DoD adjudication facilities. Data obtained from the "Rapid Assessment of Incomplete Security Evaluations" (RAISE) system facilitates the quality assessment, monitoring and improvement of these investigations.
PERSEREC developed improved standards for documenting critical details of adjudication decisions regarding applications and renewals of eligibility for accessing classified information (i.e., security clearances). Those standards were then incorporated into a system that PERSEREC created for assessing the adjudication documentation completeness and quality. Data obtained from the "Review of Adjudication Documentation Accuracy and Rationales" (RADAR) system enable monitoring and improving adjudication processes.
The 2000 Defense Authorization Bill included a mandate that the Department of Defense (DoD) assess personnel security investigation (PSI) requirements. Accurate PSI predictions are critical so the DoD can develop budgets to cover industry PSI expenses and adjudication workload. In 2004, PERSEREC conducted research and developed an adjusted prediction method to improve prediction accuracy for industry PSI requirements. In 2005, PERSEREC briefed the recommendations to the Defense Security Service (DSS), which successfully implemented more effective methods for collecting PSI survey data from cleared facilities and applied recommended statistical procedures for making accurate PSI workload predictions. Key implementation efforts included (1) developing an online application with automated quality control features for collecting annual industry PSI survey data faster and more completely, (2) assisting the largest cleared facilities in using improved methods for aggregating and estimating corporate-wide PSI requirements, (3) evaluating statistical methods for correcting PSI survey data to improve predictive accuracy, and (4) encouraging greater participation in the annual survey of cleared facilities. Examples of successful results included raising survey participation rates from under 20% (in FY05) to approximately 86% (in FY07), and improving predictive accuracy from approximately 59% discrepancy between predicted and actual PSI submissions (in FY06) to approximately 3% discrepancy (in FY07). This improved level of accuracy brought DoD into compliance with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirement of having no more than 5% discrepancy between projected and submitted PSIs.
PERSEREC completed a study of supervisor and coworker reporting of security-related information in 2003. Explanations were offered by security managers and by focus group participants as to why many security-related behaviors are underreported. The main problem was that people are hesitant to report suitability behaviors, such as excessive drinking, because they are not able to see a direct link between the particular human problem and national security. Consequently, PERSEREC developed a clear, succinct list of behaviors that could pose a potential threat to national security and thus should be reported if observed. Members of various counterintelligence agencies in the government reviewed and edited this list. It was included as Enclosure 3 in DoD Instruction 5240.6 Counterintelligence Awareness, Briefing, and Reporting Programs. In addition, PERSEREC developed a brochure based on these items as an educational tool to help DoD components and other departments that have need of security education materials on supervisor and coworker reporting or for counterintelligence briefings.
The National Security Council (NSC) required an evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Adjudicative Guidelines approved by the President in 1997. When it became apparent that updates and some revisions were needed, PERSEREC prepared draft changes and coordinated them within DoD. These changes were then reviewed by a Personnel Security Working Group (PSWG) subcommittee and subsequently approved by the full PSWG and the NSC. These changes were forwarded to the Office of the President for approval in June 2005.
PERSEREC developed a new reinvestigation model—a two-phase Single Scope Background Investigation-Periodic Reinvestigation (SSBI-PR). Data gathered from many agencies within the federal government showed unequivocally that if the initial Phase 1 sources in the SSBI-PR do not yield issue-relevant information, the Phase 2 sources, reference and residence interviews, rarely are productive. In the new reinvestigation model, Phase 1 sources are used for all subjects but an investigation is only expanded to include Phase 2 sources if any of the Phase 1 sources revealed issue information. PERSEREC worked with the intelligence and security communities, senior officials in the DoD, the Personnel Security Working Group (PSWG), and the National Security Council (NSC). The policy was signed by the President in December 2004 and was fully implemented by the Federal Investigative Services Division of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in September 2005. PERSEREC estimates that implementation of the Phased SSBI-PR resulted in a cost avoidance of over $80M for DoD during the FY06 to FY10 time period. In addition, OPM reports show that Phased PRs take less time to complete than full scope SSBI-PRs.
A beta test of the Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) Version 1.1 was conducted on 12,710 individuals holding Top Secret clearances at the midpoint between their regularly scheduled periodic reinvestigation. Seven DoD central adjudication facilities (CAFs) participated in the beta test by reviewing issue cases generated by ACES between August 2004 and February 2005. The adjudicators participating in the ACES pilot indicated that the system ran successfully, asking for only a few adjustments to the ACES business rules in order to reduce the number of minor issues identified by the system.
PERSEREC interviewed senior policymakers and practitioners in 20 federal agencies, conducted two literature reviews, and facilitated a series of focus groups among rank-and-file employees in the field. The research showed that although people were reluctant to report gray-area behaviors ("the more personal things," as one interviewee put it), they were quite willing to report serious security and counterintelligence infractions. They just want to know what such infractions are. An outgrowth of the report was the development of a brochure to help the coworker understand what serious counterintelligence behaviors they should report.
PERSEREC published the Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence on behalf of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The guide brings together the expertise of over 500 school violence experts and school community members from around the nation. The document was distributed to every military base, police precinct, and sheriff’s department in the nation who in turn disseminated the information to their local schools.
In collaboration with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), PERSEREC produced guidelines for combating workplace violence for employers and for law enforcement officers. The guide focuses on violence committed by insiders—coworkers, supervisors, or family members of employees—within a common worksite. Guidelines for employees and for police departments are presented in separate sections. These guidelines were developed with input from hundreds of chiefs, command level officers, employees, lawyers, and security professionals. They can be used as benchmarks for helping assess the state of an organization’s current policies and practices and pre-incident violence prevention as well as guidance for addressing violent or threatening incidents. This guide has been widely disseminated and is credited with the prevention or mitigation of workplace violence in both government and industry.
PERSEREC directed a study in 1990 of the Special Background Investigations (SBI) used by all federal intelligence agencies for granting access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). Results indicated that the subject of the SBI was an important source of background information and that most derogatory information was generated by the past 10 years of the subject’s life. This study was used to set the investigative standards of National Security Directive 63, which implemented a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) for access to all classified information. It also established a subject interview as an integral investigative source and reduced the length of background coverage to 10 years. In 1995, we directed another study of the productivity of sources used in the SSBI. This study involved four federal agencies: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), DoD, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). It showed that the subject provided the issue information in 81% of the cases and that 97.6% of the issue cases were developed within a 7-year scope. This study was used to set the investigative standards of Executive Order 12968.
PERSEREC completed a study to assess the advisability of establishing an independent board or boards for the appeal of adverse personnel security determinations in the DoD. Current appeal procedures were described and assessed. Alternatives for more independent appeal procedures were presented, including their advantages and disadvantages, relative to current procedures. DoD implemented our recommendations to have appeal boards in each of the components with an adjudication facility. This recommendation was also incorporated into the Executive Order (E.O.) 12968. We also provided implementation procedures for appeal boards and procedures for adjudication facilities to use in notifying personnel of adverse personnel security determinations.
PERSEREC developed a computer-based security screening instrument for use with military service applicants. MASS permits personnel security interviews to be conducted by classifiers before an applicant is assigned to sensitive duties. The program prompts the interviewer to ask questions about the applicant’s background and branches into more detailed questions when answers indicate the possibility of derogatory information. This program was fully adopted by the Navy.
PERSEREC developed adjudication criteria that were to be used for the National Industrial Security Program (NISP). These criteria were based on personnel security research, recent findings in the medical field, and existing criteria used by DoD, Department of Energy (DOE), and the intelligence community. The criteria were reviewed by interagency working groups and later became the adjudicative criteria for the Executive Branch (issued by a 1997 memorandum by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs). In 2000 a study was undertaken by PERSEREC to determine how these guidelines were implemented by the Department since 1998. The study recommended a number of adjustments to improve specific guidelines and the information provided by the investigative standards.
PERSEREC developed a system for automating the credit report acquisition and initial screening process at Defense Security Service (DSS). This system became fully operational at the Personnel Investigations Center (PIC) during Fiscal Year 1994 and reduced the cost of background investigations by significantly lowering the cost of acquiring credit report information. It more than paid for itself during the first few months of operation. The system also printed credit reports in a user-friendly format we helped develop, integrated multiple credit reports pertaining to the same person into a single credit report, and identified financial issue cases by applying the DSS decision logic table guidelines to the data.
In March 1991 PERSEREC was directed to study the potential for achieving improved efficiency and effectiveness though greater consolidation of DoD adjudication facilities. We developed and briefed two consolidation options, which resulted in a decision to consolidate adjudications into one facility for each military department and to assign responsibility for defense agency adjudications of collateral and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) to two existing facilities. In all, this resulted in a reduction from 18 to 8 adjudication facilities with a projected cost savings of $21 million over the first 5 years.
PERSEREC developed a screening system for Marine Security Guards (MSG) at U.S. embassies in response to the Lonetree espionage incident. The security screening continuous evaluation system enabled Navy decision-makers to assess that the MSGs are trustworthy and reliable.