By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
It is often our experience that government contractors (and federal employees) can have difficulty in resolving JPAS Incident Reports placed on their government security clearance record by a current employer, former employer or other entity. There are a variety of reasons why these issues arise, but the reality is that government contractors and federal employees need to take action when they become aware of an existing Incident Report in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS). As most individuals that hold a security clearance are aware, JPAS is a computerized database maintained by the Department of Defense (DOD) which processes and evaluates eligibility for security clearance and access. JPAS maintains Incident Reports which contain alleged security concerns that must be resolved for continued access to classified information.
Seeking Information from OPM / DOD
It is often the case that an individual first becomes aware of an Incident Report when they apply for a government contractor position (they also find out in a number of other ways). They are told of an issue by their new employer, which must be resolved for them to transfer their security clearance and keep the new position. Most of the time, an individual, however, does not have information specifying the specific security concern that is the problem. As a result, the first step that is recommended for contractors and federal employees is to request a copy of all documents related to the security clearance process from the government in order to determine the extent of the existing security concern.
By doing so, an individual may uncover errors in the information that is maintained in JPAS or the security concerns at issue that are listed in the Incident Report. Typically, to obtain this information, we may file a joint Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on behalf of our individual clients. In these requests, we typically seek copies of an employee’s prior background investigations, investigator summaries, and existing incident reports in addition to other information. The requests have to be formatted properly before the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), on behalf of the DOD, will respond.
What Type of Information is Generally Provided by OPM / DOD
The amount and type of information provided in response to a Privacy Act or FOIA request will vary depending on how it is written. Typically, the information provided within a JPAS Incident Report can be very helpful to understanding the nature of existing security concerns. A JPAS Incident Report summary will provide the incident date, the receiving CAF and the CAF date of receipt, in addition to the incident criteria (the general security concern categories, e.g. personal conduct, foreign influence).
The Incident Report will also provide an unclassified description of the security issue and basis for the action. Generally, the description will include a synopsis of the security issue and is usually the most important piece of information that can be provided. In addition to the Incident Report, other information may be provided in response to the Privacy Act request, to include a Person, Investigative and Adjudicative Summary report. Contained in this type of information request response will also likely be a Message History report which itemizes the actions taken regarding the adjudication of the individual’s security clearance by the government. These documents and information can be helpful to determine progress regarding a security investigation and when issues have been raised and adjudicated.
When facing an existing Incident Report it is important to obtain the advice of counsel in evaluating your legal options. There are a number of steps that need to be taken in order to begin the process of attempting to uncover the basis for an Incident Report and to attempt to begin to resolve the issues raised. Our law firm stands ready to advise individuals on these types of security clearance issues. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.