After Navy Yard, The Fight For Better Security Begins

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Jason Reed / Reuters

A Washington, DC Metropolitan police officer and a Naval District Washington policemen stand guard at the main gate of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, September 17, 2013.

As President Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and numerous legislators call for a comprehensive review of government security clearance contractors in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, one fight over how to improve the system has already begun.

A DoD Inspector General audit released Tuesday concluded that the Navy should replace the security clearance program, Rapidgate, which the service uses for many of its facilities including the Navy Yard, because the program relies exclusively on “unreliable” public databases. Rapidgate’s maker, Eid Passport, and its backers in the Navy, are pushing back.

Rapidgate did not grant access to the alleged Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 Monday. But the attack has heightened scrutiny of the security issues the IG raised about the program.

A key question in the debate is how to ensure criminals don’t gain security clearances. The IG found that Rapidgate allowed 52 convicted felons to receive, “routine, unauthorized installation access, placing military personnel, dependents, civilians, and installations at an increased security risk.”

Eid Passport believes the audit’s findings are “concerning,” but disagrees that the security flaws are its fault, arguing that the company provides the best commercial background check possible under the law. “If, as the audit states, our identity management program didn’t identify the 52 felons, that’s concerning and we’re working with the Navy and the Inspector General to refine that,“ says Eid Passport Vice President of Marketing John Nee. “We already identify tens of thousands of individuals with felony criminal convictions already. We feel pretty confident in our system as it is today, but understand that there’s always room for improvement.”

The DoD Inspector General’s office concludes Rapidgate’s problems are too big for that degree of confidence. The audit calls on the Navy to “immediately discontinue the use of Rapidgate” since the information they provide only uses public record databases. The IG recommends replacing Rapidgate with a system that would also include access to FBI’s criminal record histories. The audit points to Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, which, using the FBI index, denied access for felons not identified by Rapidgate. Nee says that the FBI’s index “has its own flaws.”