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Federal Agencies Collaborating on Security Clearance Process

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2006 – The State Department and the Office of Personnel Management have combined resources to process security clearances for overseas Defense Department installations. The joint effort will make the clearance process more efficient and cost effective, officials said.

Effective tomorrow, the Department of State will activate an overseas investigative program with a cadre of special investigators working from U.S. embassies and consulates. The investigators will conduct OPM background investigations on DoD facilities. OPM will reimburse the State Department for the work performed.

Officials have been working to make security clearance investigations timelier, as mandated by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Federal agencies are faced with the challenges of hiring both qualified and trustworthy personnel to work in positions that impact national security. The nation’s military also faces obstacles in ensuring that all military personnel, civil servants and contractors have current security clearances.

By capitalizing on the provisions outlined in the Economy Act of 1932, federal government agencies are permitted to purchase goods or services from other federal agencies when deemed to be in the best interest of the government.

Donald R. Reid, senior coordinator for security infrastructure with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and Kathy L. Dillaman, associate director of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services Division, orchestrated the partnership and said the program exemplifies sound government practices.

The crux of the program involves hiring family members at embassies abroad to fill the gap in employment opportunities overseas.

“Identifying a talented pool of candidates overseas who are qualified to perform security clearance investigations was the cornerstone to this innovative solution,” James C. Onusko, the State Department’s director of Personnel Security, said. “In fulfilling this requirement, we were able to leverage our present contractual authorities and hire 18 … spouses possessing prior investigative experience, doctoral or graduate degrees, and other remarkable credentials qualifying them for this undertaking.”

Unemployed family members of diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates worldwide constitute a wealth of work experience that has been largely untapped due to the geographic nature of their assignments. State’s Family Liaison Office, headed by Ann D. Greenberg, is the department’s advocate for employment opportunities for family members assigned to posts overseas, including family members of employees from several federal agencies represented abroad. These include the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, DoD and FBI.

Greenberg said a demographic study of family members serving at U.S. embassies and consulates found that more three-quarters possess a bachelor’s degree and that more than half of those have a master’s or professional degree. Ninety percent of family members want to work while at posts overseas, and ninety-six percent expect to return to the U.S. “This program will provide spouses the opportunity to develop a portable career that they can carry with them as they move from post to post around the world,” she said.

The agencies are working together on a customized training course specifically for the new investigators. Sixteen special investigators graduated from a two-week OPM-accredited investigator training program at OPM’s training facility in Boyers, Penn., on Nov. 18 and were issued State Department credentials to conduct personnel security investigations at DoD installations in England, Germany, Japan and Korea. Two of the new candidates already met OPM’s standards to perform the security clearance investigations mission.

“This newly formed State and OPM partnership is a win-win situation for the federal government and the American taxpayer,” said Lance C. McPherson, who heads OPM’s Overseas Investigations Program. McPherson said he is especially optimistic that this new partnership will yield significantly greater performance in mission accomplishment.

(From an Office of Personnel Management and Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security news release.)

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