USADFAS Employees Terminated After Security Review

WASHINGTON — Defense Finance and Account­ing Ser­vice offi­cials have ter­mi­nat­ed or indef­i­nite­ly sus­pend­ed 39 agency employ­ees after they were found inel­i­gi­ble to meet the secu­ri­ty require­ments of their job.

The Defense Depart­ment con­duct­ed three sep­a­rate reviews of the deci­sion over the past 60 days, offi­cials said, which showed secu­ri­ty des­ig­na­tions were appro­pri­ate, and that the employ­ees were afford­ed ample oppor­tu­ni­ty to rec­ti­fy their sit­u­a­tion or appeal the determination. 

“This deci­sion is not tak­en light­ly, because we do val­ue our employ­ees,” Kath­leen Ott, act­ing deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for civil­ian per­son­nel pol­i­cy, said in an inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. “But in some of our posi­tions that are sen­si­tive posi­tions, we need to make sure the peo­ple pos­sess the traits that will enable them to best per­form in that position.” 

The deci­sion was based on infor­ma­tion gleaned from back­ground checks con­duct­ed to ensure the employ­ees were able to meet the secu­ri­ty cri­te­ria of their posi­tions. In 2005, all DFAS posi­tions were clas­si­fied, at a min­i­mum, as “non-crit­i­cal sen­si­tive” due to employ­ees’ access to sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion such as civil­ian, mil­i­tary and retiree pay data; Social Secu­ri­ty num­bers; and bank­ing information. 

The new clas­si­fi­ca­tion called for a back­ground check of agency employ­ees, explained Ter­ri McK­ay, DFAS director. 

“Every sin­gle employ­ee is sub­ject­ed to this back­ground check; that’s from [senior exec­u­tive ser­vice] to GS-15 down to the low­est-grad­ed posi­tions with­in the agency,” McK­ay said. “It’s not lim­it­ed to cer­tain types of employ­ees [or] cer­tain types of positions.” 

The major­i­ty of DFAS employ­ees cleared the back­ground check with­out an issue, McK­ay said. But for the 39 employ­ees, the back­ground checks for most revealed a long-term “pat­tern” of finan­cial mis­han­dling cou­pled with per­son­al mis­con­duct, she added. Only a few had sole­ly finan­cial issues. 

The finan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, McK­ay point­ed out, extend­ed far beyond a late car pay­ment or a less-than-desir­able cred­it score. 

“This action is not going to be the result of miss­ing a house pay­ment or car pay­ment — iso­lat­ed inci­dents where maybe they’re strug­gling a lit­tle bit” she said. “These are long-stand­ing pat­terns of behavior.” 

DFAS offi­cials worked close­ly with the affect­ed indi­vid­u­als to ensure all mea­sures were tak­en before the final deter­mi­na­tion was made. 

“We make every effort pos­si­ble to let them explain mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors that can impact the deci­sion or to help them cre­ate a plan that would elim­i­nate the adverse infor­ma­tion or issues affect­ing their eli­gi­bil­i­ty cri­te­ria,” Ott said. 

DFAS pro­vid­ed employ­ees assis­tance through­out the adju­di­ca­tion process, includ­ing finan­cial coun­sel­ing through the agency’s Per­son­nel Secu­ri­ty Office and its Civil­ian Employ­ee Assis­tance Pro­gram. And all employ­ees who request­ed an appeal exten­sion to gath­er doc­u­ments or oth­er per­ti­nent infor­ma­tion were grant­ed more time, Ott said. 

DFAS offi­cials are well aware of the decision’s effect, McK­ay said. 

“It’s very impor­tant we under­stand the impact on indi­vid­u­als,” she said. “That’s why we work so hard to help employ­ees change their behav­iors and how they can mit­i­gate these factors.” 

But DFAS also has “a respon­si­bil­i­ty, a risk-based respon­si­bil­i­ty, to pro­tect Pri­va­cy Act infor­ma­tion and Depart­ment of Defense finan­cial infor­ma­tion,” she said. “So it’s a bal­ance of under­stand­ing the impact on indi­vid­u­als and pro­tect­ing infor­ma­tion. This is ser­vice­mem­bers’ per­son­al information.” 

As a result of this inci­dent, DFAS offi­cials plan to beef up sup­port sys­tems for out­go­ing employ­ees, such as out­place­ment ser­vices to help with resume-writ­ing and inter­view skills. The agency also will enhance annu­al train­ing on secu­ri­ty require­ments and empha­size the impor­tance of per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty in adher­ing to cri­te­ria, McK­ay said. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, DFAS offi­cials will look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to expand the assis­tance they receive from their union part­ners, who have proved help­ful in help­ing employ­ees mit­i­gate risk fac­tors and lead­ing employ­ees to cred­it coun­sel­ing, McK­ay said. 

The agency will con­tin­ue to offer finan­cial coun­sel­ing to its employ­ees, as well as assis­tance with under­stand­ing job require­ments and on what to do if employ­ees fail to meet them, she added. 

Speak­ing to the big­ger pic­ture, Ott said depart­ment offi­cials will work to ensure the pol­i­cy that des­ig­nates sen­si­tiv­i­ty des­ig­na­tion is clear, under­stood by all and con­sis­tent­ly applied. They plan to add clar­i­fy­ing infor­ma­tion to the pol­i­cy, and will “dou­ble-check” to make sure secu­ri­ty require­ments are clear on job announce­ments, she said. 

Offi­cials also plan to stan­dard­ize train­ing on secu­ri­ty require­ments for incom­ing employ­ees through­out the depart­ment, she added. 

“We want to main­tain our rep­u­ta­tion as a mod­el employ­er,” Ott said. “And from a more prac­ti­cal point of view, we put a lot of effort into hir­ing employ­ees and train­ing them, so once we have them trained, of course, we want to keep them. Should they have a slip-up, there are resources to help them: employ­ee assis­tance and counseling.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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