Congressman Russell to Give Opening Statement at Security Clearance Reform Hearing

March 1, 2016
In The News

February 25, 2016

Press Release 

Office of Congressman Steve Russell 

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steve Russell (OK-5) will give an opening statement during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing to Review Security Clearance Reform: The Performance Accountability Council’s Path Forward.

Remarks as prepared:

“Thank you Mister Chairman. Following the June 2015 OPM data breach, I began working with my colleague, Congressman Ted Lieu, on a path forward that would protect not just the personal and private information of those who hold security clearances, but crown jewels material for a foreign intelligence service.

My concern deepened as we learned the full extent of the breach. All told, 18 million records were stolen in the breach, including data on military and intelligence personnel, placing Americans at great risk that has not abated. I also received a letter from my time in the service stating my data had been compromised. For me and my friend Congressman Ted Lieu who also received a letter, this is not some academic issue. It should also be noted that the DOD never lost security of such data. It was through pressure, largely from Congress, to save money and make an effort to eliminate a large backlog. Well, we eliminated the backlog by eliminating security. Whatever savings we had has also surely been forfeited.

Today, we will examine the reform efforts advanced by the 90-Day Suitability and Security review by the Performance Accountability Council, or PAC. One of the main points of emphasis I made along with Mister Lieu was the need for the Department of Defense to “own” the data for our service members and department civilians. I am encouraged that the PAC review will result in this being accomplished. Under the reforms recommended by the PAC, the Department of Defense will be responsible for not just building the infrastructure that will house this critically important data, they will also be responsible for defending it. The questions remains however, that while the DOD has been given the responsibility, will they be given the authority while being placed under some new bureau. This must be answered.

I remain concerned regarding the creation of the new National Background Investigations Bureau, or NBIB. NBIB will ultimately absorb the Federal Investigative Service, which currently is tasked with conducting background investigations for the vast majority of government. While I believe we all recognize the pressing importance and urgency of modernizing the security clearance process, I remain unconvinced that allowing an OPM entity, whether its name is FIS or NBIB, is the correct path in the long term. After all, the OPM allowed the worst breach of secure data in our nation’s history.

I hope that today’s hearing will show why NBIB will be a new way forward, rather than just a rebranding of FIS. I appreciate the willingness of Acting Director Cobert and other members of the PAC have shown in working with me on this issue, and the willingness and access they have given to answer our questions. My aim in this hearing is to ensure that the process forward for NBIB is the right path, and that we are not just putting a fresh coat of paint on a house with a bad foundation. A House that our enemies have broken in to and stolen everything in it, I might add.

I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses as we seek to understand the difference between NBIB and its predecessor, as well as the role of DOD in protecting this vital information. Mister Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.”