DFAS Employees Terminated After Security Review
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 2, 2010 Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials have notified 33 agency employees who are facing suspension or termination after they were found ineligible to meet the sensitivity requirements of their job.
In 2005, all DFAS positions were classified, at a minimum, as "non-critical sensitive" due to employees' access to sensitive information such as civilian, military and retiree pay data; Social Security numbers; and banking information.
The new classification called for a background check of agency employees, explained Terri McKay, DFAS director.
"Every single employee is subjected to this background check; that's from [senior executive service] to GS-15 down to the lowest-graded positions within the agency," McKay said. “It's not limited to certain types of employees [or] certain types of positions."
Of 16,516 cases, the majority of DFAS employees cleared the background check without an issue, McKay said. But for the 33 employees, each of whom had a unique set of circumstances, the security criteria were not met, she added.
The Defense Department conducted three separate reviews of the decision over the past 60 days, officials said, which showed security designations were appropriate, and that the employees were afforded ample opportunity to rectify their situation or appeal the determination. The review confirmed that the re-designation of DFAS position sensitivity designations to “non-critical sensitive” was appropriately conducted under relevant Defense Department policy which was consistently applied, officials said, adding that due process procedures were applied consistently for those employees who were deemed ineligible to hold the position.
Those involved in the review went to great lengths to ensure both human and economic circumstances were considered in the decision-making process, officials said.
"This decision is not taken lightly. We value our employees and understand the impact such a decision will have," Kathleen Ott, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service. "In recognition of this, we have in place a process by which employees can submit clarifying information or explain extenuating circumstances surrounding their cases.
“We offer assistance throughout the process to the employees and counseling services through the Employee Assistance Program,” she continued. “However, there are a number of positions within the department that are sensitive, and we need to make certain the people are suitable to hold these sensitive positions. We conduct background investigations on all employees in sensitive positions to assist in that determination.”
DFAS officials worked closely with the affected individuals to ensure all measures are taken before the final determination was made.
"We make every effort possible to let them explain mitigating factors that can impact the decision or to help them create a plan that would eliminate the adverse information or issues affecting their eligibility criteria," Ott said.
DFAS provides employees assistance throughout the adjudication process, including financial counseling through the agency's Personnel Security Office and its Civilian Employee Assistance Program. In addition, all employees who requested an appeal extension to gather documents or other pertinent information were granted more time, McKay said.
DFAS officials are well aware of the decision’s effect, McKay said.
"It's very important we understand the impact on individuals," she said. "That's why we work so hard to help employees…and educate them on how they can mitigate these factors."
But DFAS also has “a responsibility, a risk-based responsibility, to protect Privacy Act information and Department of Defense financial information," she said. "So it's a balance of understanding the impact on individuals and protecting information. This is servicemembers' and civilians’ personal information."