Security Clearances:

Consideration of Sexual Orientation in the Clearance Process

NSIAD-95-21: Published: Mar 24, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how sexual orientation is treated in the security clearance process for federal civilian and contractor employees, focusing on: (1) whether clearances are being denied or revoked based on individuals' sexual orientation; (2) whether sexual orientation is being used as a criterion in granting or revoking security clearances; and (3) how concealment of sexual orientation affects the granting or revocation of security clearances.

GAO found that: (1) security clearance problems related to sexual orientation appear to be declining; (2) a review of selected cases from fiscal year 1993 showed that sexual orientation was not a factor in denials, revocations, or suspensions of security clearances; (3) the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Secret Service have stated that sexual orientation is not a criterion in granting security clearances, but they have not yet revised their investigative policies and procedures; and (4) no clear linkage exists between sexual orientation and espionage.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD implemented the "Personnel Security Program Regulation." DOD added a statement that sexual orientation shall not be a basis for, or disqualifying factor in, determining eligibility for clearance. DOD implemented policies to focus only on conduct-related issues, rather than sexual orientation. The guidelines were approved by the Security Policy Board and approved by the White House on March 24, 1997.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) to modify DOD investigative and adjudicative procedures to be consistent with stated agency policies and to ensure that adjudication guidelines and investigative procedures are consistent by focusing only on conduct-related issues, rather than on sexual orientation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Treasury Department has drafted a new security manual applicable to all bureaus. The manual's chapter on the subject interview specifically prohibits questions on sexual orientation unless the sexual behavior is a security concern because it involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, subjects the individual to coercion, exploitation, or duress, or reflects lack of judgment or discretion. Treasury expects the manual, which is being coordinated for approval, to be published by September 1998.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Secret Service's Assistant Director for Investigations to modify the Service's investigative and adjudicative procedures to be consistent with stated agency policies.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FBI disagrees with the recommendation and plans no action.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to revise FBI investigative guidelines regarding sexual orientation to eliminate the requirement that admissions of sexual orientation be recorded for use in determining the applicant's vulnerability to compromise.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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