- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2019

The three-week government shutdown threatens to undermine the process by which federal employees obtain and maintain sensitive security clearances, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.

In a letter to the Trump administration on Friday, Mr. Warner noted that security clearances depend on employees having rock-solid credit scores — something that could be thrown into jeopardy for thousands of workers missing paychecks because of the shutdown.

“Federal employees at agencies that lack an appropriation have missed their first paycheck due to the government shutdown and may be unable to make payments on rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other debts,” Mr. Warner wrote to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

A part of the process for obtaining a security clearance involves reviewing a person’s credit score. Applicants who miss mortgage, rent or credit card payments could put their clearance at risk if their score is affected.

A senior administration official told The Washington Times, “current clearance holders should not lose their clearance if credit problems are their only issue, those problems were due to the shutdown, and the individual made good faith efforts to meet their financial obligations. As the President has mentioned time and again, it is time Congress passes a bill to secure our borders and re-open the government.”

The FBI Agents Association separately issued an open letter to Mr. Mulvaney and the OMB on Thursday, arguing that a prolonged shutdown could spark a backup in renewing or issuing security clearances. The association warned that missing payments “could even disqualify [FBI] agents from continuing to serve in some cases.”

Mr. Warner late last week asked the Trump administration to “issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness if their credit is affected by the shutdown.”

“Due to absolutely no fault of their own, the jobs of dedicated government personnel whom we entrust with the nation’s secrets could be at stake,” said Mr. Warner.

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