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Background checks scrutinized after shooting

Sep. 28, 2013 - 10:38AM   |  
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A White House review triggered by the Washington Navy Yard shootings will examine whether security clearance investigations should continue to be left to contractors or handled directly by the government, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday.

“That’s something we need to look at,” Carter said at a Pentagon news briefing, adding that the issue transcends the Defense Department.

Given that millions of federal employees and contractors have clearances, another issue is how investigators can do the “thorough and careful job” needed to have a reasonable chance of uncovering an applicant’s violent tendencies, Carter said.

Besides the White House review by the Office of Management and Budget, three Defense Department and Navy inquiries are underway following the Sept. 16 rampage by Aaron Alexis that killed 12 people.

A key question is how Alexis, who reported hearing voices and was arrested in 2010 for firing a gun through the ceiling of his apartment, was able to hold on to the secret clearance that he received in 2008. Alexis was killed by police during the shooting. His background check was performed by USIS of Falls Church, Va., the largest federal contractor in the field. The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the government’s background investigation process, has said the investigation was handled properly.

But Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has since ordered the Navy and Marine Corps to assign more senior officers to be command security managers and to require commanding officers to sign off on performance reviews, officials said.

As of last October, more than 4.9 million federal employees and contractors had clearances, according to the most recent compilation by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. ■

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