Hearings to examine federal security clearances and overtime

November 13, 2013
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A Senate panel has scheduled two hearings in the coming weeks to examine federal-workforce questions related to recent hot-button issues.

The Senate Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, headed by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), plans to look at security classifications and clearances on Nov. 20, followed by a discussion of Homeland Security overtime practices on Dec. 10.

(Reuters/Jason Reed)
(Reuters/Jason Reed)

The hearings appear to be a response to concerns about security clearances for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, as well as recent allegations of overtime abuses by Homeland Security employees.

MORE: Homeland Security workers routinely boost pay with unearned overtime, report says

Tester and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) have proposed legislation that would restructure Homeland Security’s overtime policies.

In October, the Senate unanimously approved a separate Tester bill that would change how the federal government conducts screenings for individuals seeking security clearances, freeing up funds for more oversight and by strengthening the authority of the Office of Personnel Management to terminate individuals for misconduct or providing false background information.  Portman co-sponsored the measure.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) talk before a news conference on Oct. 30. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) talk before a news conference on Oct. 30. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).

Four female Senators last month also united behind a bipartisan proposal to increase the frequency of background checks on federal employees and contractors who have already received clearances.

A third new hearing slated for Nov. 19 will examine federal oversight roles, including those of inspectors general, the Office of Special Counsel and privacy officers.

Lawmakers and government watchdog groups have criticized President Obama in recent years for prolonged delays in filling oversight positions. The executive branch currently has four vacancies for inspector general roles, down from 10 unfilled openings last year.

The president is yet to choose inspector general nominees for the Department of the Interior and Homeland Security, which is the third-largest executive department. The Senate has not voted on his appointees for the other two positions, with the Labor Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has threatened an attempt to block the confirmation process for all of Obama’s executive nominees unless the White House and State Department provide more answers for the attack last year on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

MORE: Sen. Lindsey Graham holds firm on threat to block Obama nominees

Watchdog groups say inspectors general are critical to the oversight process, since they conduct the agency reviews that often identify serious problems.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | November 12, 2013