Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on Friday reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act, which would overhaul the Federal government’s security clearance process and tackle the government’s backlog of pending security clearance investigations.

The bill would modernize what the senator called an “antiquated” system.

In a letter sent to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney the day before the bill was reintroduced, the senator wrote: “the current vetting process for security clearances and positions of trust is too complicated, takes too long, costs too much, and fails to capitalize on modern technology and processes.” He cited the sometimes years-long clearance process as a reason for government losing out on talented employees, and said the government must act now “amidst allegations of inappropriate granting and revoking of clearances and anxieties caused by the government shutdown.”

The bill would require the White House to merge the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) into the Pentagon and have the Director of National Intelligence streamline the background clearance process.

Sen. Warner also wrote in the letter that it is essential to reduce the background investigation inventory from a high point of 750,000 in April 2018 to a steady state of 200,000.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week, Sen. Warner said the government’s security clearance backlog was down to about 500,000, and told intelligence agency chiefs, “we can do much better.”

The Office of Management and Budget said in December that the NBIB was able to reduce the background investigation backlog by 18 percent from June to December, and that further reductions were expected.

Sen. Warner previously introduced the bill in December 2018 but it never made it out of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The latest version of the bill does not yet appear to have companion legislation in the House.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.