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SPB 167-96


A Report for the US Security Policy Advisory Board

20 November 1996


Unilateral attempts by Defense Investigative Service (DIS) and Department of Defense (DoD) to modify the new Investigative Standard now at the White House pending approval.


Executive Order 12968 directed the development of an investigative standard to be used within the Federal Government. Two years of effort have resulted in the development of that standard. It enjoys wide support throughout the community and is designated to be one of the foundation pieces for reciprocity of investigations and adjudications for our nation. Unfortunately, it has been pending the President's signature for some five months. In the interim, the Director, Defense Investigative Service (DIS) has developed a proposal of reducing the coverage in full background investigations in order to fund new requirements for investigations for SECRET. Ms. Munson has communicated directly with you on this issue.

In general, it is estimated the new investigative standards will result in a 25 percent reduction in the investigative scope for both TOP SECRET and SECRET investigations throughout the government. However, DoD will actually experience an increase in investigative coverage for SECRET investigations. DoD's coverage to date for SECRET clearances has only involved a review of national FBI records while the rest of the government also conducted local agency checks, a credit check, and written inquiries for reference coverage. Cost was considered during the deliberative process but it was ultimately necessary to upgrade DoD's investigative process because of the discovery that the national FBI records check alone can no longer provide complete coverage. Accordingly, it is possible for persons with extensive police records for serious offenses to include murder, rape, robbery, etc., to not only be accessed into the DoD, but also be granted a SECRET clearance.


No one is denying the need to increase the investigative scope for SECRET; the only issue is how to fund it. DIS was charged with looking inward for the savings and they instead have chosen to propose unilateral changes to the national standards. Moreover, no one is denying that the individual components of the investigative process require additional scrutiny. The federal community, through the Security Policy Board process, is embarking on a plan to do just that in a reasoned, scientific manner (see attached memorandum to the Personnel Security Research Working Group). However, the DIS proposal has gained sufficient momentum so as to possibly derail both the trusted standard and the community deliberative process.

The DIS proposal, which would eliminate neighborhood investigations in favorable cases, seems to make sense to a number of upper level managers to include Ms. Joan Dempsey and Mr. Richard Wilhelm. Accordingly, Ms. Munson is drafting a memorandum for Ms. Dempsey to hand carry to DEPSECDEF to influence him to take action in this matter. We do not have direct access to Dr. White, but if we did, we would urge caution on his part for the following reasons:

1. The initiative, though attractive on the surface to those not knowledgeable, has almost no support among security professionals throughout the Defense and the rest of the Federal Government. They will only be convinced by solid, unbiased research.

2. No national trusted standard should be precipitously tampered with particularly when such action will further delay its implementation. Careful deliberation is in order particularly because, to the majority of the community, this situation simply represents another example of DoD operating independent of an established process.

3. The research by which DIS bases their proposal is suspect at best. It may well be validated later, but that should occur first.

4. There is no doubt that DIS is not particularly successful when investigating neighborhoods. However, this may be as much a reflection on the investigators, or their specific task, as it is of neighborhood investigations. Only research will tell.

5. Simultaneous to this proposal is an initiative to resolve the challenges of detecting unexplained affluence through a refocus of current investigative practices. This will almost certainly dictate, at a minimum, a visit to a neighborhood for a viewing of the subject's residence.

6. The fallout of the new spy case is unknown. It may not be politically feasible to propose such a reduction in standards at this time.


The Board Staff asks you to consider personally interceding with the DEPSECDEF and urge he consider the following:

1. The importance of ensuring that people with serious criminal records not be accessed into the armed forces. This will require augmenting the accession and the clearance process with local agency checks. This issue should be funded immediately so the Department can cite aggressive action.

2. From a macro perspective, it is important to maintain the integrity of established national standards. It simply is more cost effective in the long run.

3. There is a need for caution in accepting a seemingly attractive cost saving initiative from DIS, that may actually cost the Department and the government more, in money and reputation in the long run.

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