Security Clearances: Additional Mechanisms May Aid Federal Tax-Debt Detection

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-15-467T, March 18, 2015

Form the summary:
In its prior work, GAO found that tens of thousands of federal employees and contractors who were adjudicated as eligible for national security clearances had unpaid federal tax debts. Specifically:
– In July 2014, GAO reported that about 83,000 Department of Defense (DOD) employees and contractors who were determined eligible for a security clearance or related interim clearance owed approximately $730 million in unpaid taxes as of June 2012.
– In September 2013, GAO reported that about 8,400 non-DOD civilian executive-branch employees and contractors with clearances owed about $85 million in unpaid federal taxes as of June 2012….

…According to ODNI, several million civilian and military federal employees and contractors were eligible to hold a security clearance as of October 2013. The number of personnel determined eligible for clearance underscores the importance of conducting thorough assessments of security-clearance applicants as these clearances may allow individuals to gain access to classified information that, through unauthorized disclosure, in some cases might cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. Federal laws do not prohibit an individual with unpaid federal taxes from holding a security clearance, but tax debt poses a potential vulnerability that must be considered in making a broader determination about whether an applicant should be granted a security clearance.

This testimony focuses on: (1) the extent to which clearance holders had unpaid federal tax debts, and (2) actions to improve the detection of federal tax debt in the security-clearance process. This testimony is based on and summarizes key findings and a recommendation from two prior reports GAO issued in September 2013 and July 2014 (GAO-13-733 and GAO-14-686R)….