House Passes Farenthold-Lynch Bill to Improve Security Clearance Process

Jan 15, 2014

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2860, the OPM IG Act (Office of Personnel Management Inspector General Act), by a vote of 418-0. This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Chairman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Ranking Member Stephen F. Lynch of the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, will better ensure that security clearance investigations will be subject to meaningful federal oversight.

In particular, H.R. 2860 will authorize the OPM Inspector General to access a portion of the OPM budget, known as the Revolving Fund, in order to audit, investigate, and conduct oversight of federal agencies. Chief among the programs funded by the OPM Revolving Fund is the Federal Investigative Services, through which OPM conducts background investigations for over 100 federal agencies in order to determine whether an individual is suitable for civilian, military, and contract employment and eligible for the issuance of a security clearance for access to classified information. The Federal Investigative Services is currently OPM’s largest Revolving Fund program, generating more than 50% of the agency’s Revolving Fund revenue per year, and conducts over 90% of all background investigations for federal agencies.    

 “Recent events involving Aaron Alexis and the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard have called attention to the need for Congress to examine and improve the federal government’s background investigations and security clearance process. By providing the OPM Inspector General with the resources necessary to conduct rigorous oversight of OPM programs, including the Federal Investigative Services, that are critical to our national security, H.R. 2860 will be a key component of our reform efforts,” said Lynch.

Inspector General, Patrick McFarland, previously testified before the Subcommittee that his office has been unable to conduct proper oversight of these activities. As a result, Inspector General McFarland has reported that during Fiscal Year 2013, his office conducted oversight of OPM’s estimated $2 billion Revolving Fund activities with a budget of less than $3 million.  

“Due to the limited resources at his disposal to conduct oversight of Revolving Fund programs, the OPM Inspector General has been hamstrung in investigating high-risk areas, including falsification and lack of quality control during federal background check investigations,” said Lynch. “H.R. 2860 will serve to better mitigate the national security risks associated with the current background investigations process."