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Category Archives: Defense

CRS – Security Clearance Process: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Via FAS – Security Clearance Process: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, Michelle D. Christensen, Analyst in Government Organization and Management. October 7, 2016.
This report provides a primer on some of the fundamental aspects of the security clearance process, using a “Frequently Asked Questions” format. A security clearance is a determination that an individual—whether a direct federal employee or a private contractor performing work for the government—is eligible for access to classified national security information. A security clearance alone does not grant an individual access to classified materials. Rather, a security clearance means that an individual is eligible for access. In order to gain access to specific classified materials, an individual should also have a demonstrated “need to know” the information contained in the specific classified materials. There are three levels of security clearances: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret, which correspond to the levels of sensitivity of the information that a cleared individual will be eligible to access. In addition, there are two major categories of classified information that require additional handling and access restrictions—Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), which includes intelligence sources, methods, and processes, and Special Access Programs (SAPs), which are highly sensitive projects and programs. These categories exist for classified information that has been deemed particularly vulnerable. Eligibility standards and investigative requirements for access to SCI and SAPs are higher than for access to information otherwise classified at the same level, which further restricts the number of individuals eligible for access.Federal employees and private contractors must be cleared in order to gain access to classified materials. An individual may not obtain or initiate a security clearance on his or her own. A sponsoring federal agency initiates the process and will make the final security clearance determination based on a background investigation.Although the process involves a number of stages, the key steps to obtaining and maintaining a security clearance are (1) agency sponsorship and submission of clearance application materials; (2) a background investigation, the extent of which may vary by level of clearance; and (3) adjudication to determine whether an individual is deemed eligible for access. Adjudication and final clearance determinations are generally handled by the sponsoring agency. To maintain a security clearance, an individual is also subject to periodic reinvestigations and, more recently, continuous monitoring and evaluation of his or her background. Previously, the Office of Personnel Management, Federal Investigative Services (OPM-FIS) oversaw approximately 95% of all background investigations. On October 1, 2016, President Obama transferred responsibility for investigative work and related services from OPM-FIS to the newly established National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB). Like OPM-FIS, the NBIB conducts some of the investigative work itself and contracts the rest out to private firms. Typically, the costs of a background investigation, including background investigations of private contractors, are paid for by the requesting agency. While the final determination to grant or deny a security clearance is typically made by the requesting agency, with certain exceptions a security clearance granted by one agency must be accepted by other agencies. It is difficult, however, to determine the degree to which reciprocity occurs between agencies.”

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

CRS report via FAS – Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs. January 6, 2017. “U.S.- Israel Relations in a Time of Transition – For decades, strong bilateral relations have fueled and reinforced significant U.S.-Israel cooperation in many areas, including regional security. Nonetheless, at various points throughout the… Continue Reading

Inauguration Security: Operations, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress

CRS report via FAS – Inauguration Security: Operations, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress, Shawn Reese, Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy; Jacob R. Straus, Specialist on the Congress; Christina M. Bailey, Information Research Specialist. January 11, 2017. “Every four years, on January 20, the President-elect is sworn in as President of the United… Continue Reading

Trends in Spending by the Department of Defense for Operation and Maintenance

“The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) budget consists of appropriations for the following purposes: compensating military personnel; developing and purchasing weapons; building bases, facilities, and housing; and supporting day-to-day operations. The largest single appropriation category in DoD’s base budget is the operation and maintenance (O&M) account, which funds day-to-day operations ranging from health care to equipment maintenance.… Continue Reading

Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress

CRS report via FAS – Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress. Kathleen J. McInnis, Analyst in International Security. January 5, 2017. “The proposed nomination of General (Ret.) James Mattis, United States Marine Corps (hereafter referred to as “General Mattis”), who retired from the military in 2013, to be Secretary… Continue Reading

WaPo reports US intel documents Russian geopol jubilation at Trump win

Follow up to previous posting today – President-elect plans to restructure US intelligence agencies – via Washington Post – U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win – “Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that… Continue Reading

Newsweek – Why President Obama Can’t Pardon Edward Snowden

Newsweek – Edward Jay Epstein, January 7, 2017: “A president can pardon anyone from any crime for any reason, or no reason at all, but, as the hours tick away on his presidency, it is unimaginable that Obama, a former law lecturer, will ignore all he knows about what Snowden did and absolve him of… Continue Reading

President-elect plans to restructure US intelligence agencies

WSJ – President-elect works on restructuring Office of the Director of National Intelligence, tweets again his doubts that Russia hacked Democrats – “President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the… Continue Reading

COIN: A Study of Strategic Illusion

Etzioni, Amitai, COIN: A Study of Strategic Illusion (March 12, 2015). Small Wars & Insurgencies, 26:3, 345-376, 2015.. Available for download at SSRN: “Has the United States military become a learning institution, one able to transition from relying on a conventional war model to fighting against irregular adversaries such as insurgents and terrorists? This… Continue Reading

CRS – Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer. Paul K. Kerr, Analyst in Nonproliferation; Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation. December 6, 2016. “In order for the United States to engage in significant civilian nuclear cooperation with other states, it must conclude a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic… Continue Reading

DHS/FBI issue joint report on Russian hacking of US election and subsequent govt sanctions

ABC News – Obama Issues Sanctions for Alleged Russian Hacking – “President Obama has expelled 35 Russian nationals and sanctioned five Russian entities and four individuals for an alleged cyber assault on Democratic political organizations during the 2016 presidential campaign, the White House announced today. “I have ordered a number of actions in response to… Continue Reading

Video – How 60 ambiguous words gave the United States’ president unprecedented war power

‘The President is authorised to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations, or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harboured such organisations or persons, in order to prevent any future act of international terrorism against the United States by such… Continue Reading