Rep. Hoyer: Congress ‘Must’ Examine How Defense Firms Screen Employees

First, there was Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton IT contractor who leaked details of several highly classified anti-terrorism programs. Now, there’s Aaron Alexis, an HP contractor who allegedly killed 12 Monday at the Washington Navy Yard.

Alexis was a Navy Reverse veteran who did IT work, like Snowden, for the U.S. national security sector and, reportedly, other clients. Officials say Alexis possessed a valid badge that allowed him access to the highly secure Navy Yard — despite several gun-related arrests.

And one senior U.S. lawmaker says it’s time to ask why.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a state with a massive number of government contractors, cited Alexis’ arrests in two states after incidents that involved him firing a gun.

Hoyer said Alexis should have been “subject to closer scrutiny” before he was allowed access into a facility like the Navy Yard. During a breakfast sponsored by Politico, Hoyer said Congress “must” closely examine the rules under which defense contractors screen and hire employees.

Following Snowden’s leaking of details of several NSA electronic surveillance programs, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., began working on legislation aimed at clamping down on private-sector contractors’ access to classified data.

Numerous lawmakers followed the Snowden/NSA scandal by raising concerns that a low-level contractor could access such sensitive data. Alexis also was a low-level contractor.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., according to reports, has called for a “thorough scrub” of contractor processes to make sure access is given only to individuals who raise no red flags.

“Those kinds of people obviously raise concerns and I think there’s a thorough scrub today to make sure all the protections that are in place are continuing to happen,” Rogers said in June, according to a Bloomberg report. “We’re also looking at internal controls to make sure that if something was missed here, something doesn’t get missed in the future.”

Will Congress soon begin what would no doubt be the tough task of tightening the procedures national security contractors use to screen, hire and assign access to employees?

That would include balancing security, attracting qualified and talented workers, and not hurting corporate profits, among other issues. It would be a difficult tightrope for lawmakers and the corporate executives who would undoubtedly weigh in.

Intercepts has reached out to aides to both Feinstein and Rogers. Check back here for updates, as well as DefenseNews.com.

First, there was sequestration, which executives at defense firms say is influencing their bottom lines. Now, there is an emerging pattern of rouge IT contractors that could bring stiffer rules. For companies that raked in big profits in the post-9/11 era, times certainly are changing.

(Image: FBI)

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett
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