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CONTACT: Project On Government Oversight
Agency Overseeing Classified Info in the Hands of Contractors Has “A Lack of Resources to Accomplish Mission,” Its Employees Say
WASHINGTON - October 5 - In a November 2009 survey of employees at the Defense Security Service (DSS), a “recurring issue” emerged, according to an e-mail sent to DSS employees on September 16, 2010, that was obtained by POGO. Employees said there was “a lack of resources to accomplish the mission,” according to the e-mail. DSS is the government agency responsible for ensuring contractors properly handle classified information.
The e-mail can be viewed here.
“As the government’s secrets are increasingly placed in the hands of private companies, we need to ensure that these companies can protect our nation’s crown jewels,” said Nick Schwellenbach, POGO’s director of investigations. “GAO reports and its own out-going director say the Defense Security Service needs to be strengthened.”
Some experts argue that government contractors with access to government secrets constitute the soft underbelly of the U.S. national security apparatus and may be vulnerable to espionage. For example, BusinessWeek in 2008 documented one attempt to penetrate Booz Allen Hamilton’s internal computer network. DSS has documented that U.S. companies are often the target of believed foreign espionage attempts and computer intrusion.
The September 16 e-mail goes on to solicit input from DSS employees. The survey is brief and asks very basic questions, such as whether employees have the supplies they need.
According to a source inside DSS, most of the employees responding to the survey were troubled by a lack of trained and experienced field security personnel, rather than how many office supplies they had.