Last Congress, Senator Toomey introduced legislation which would have established a Federal entity where security service companies could go to obtain FBI background investigations on current and prospective employees.
Currently, such background information is acquired through the various states, which have inconsistent and often incomplete records.
If NCISS members might recall, we did an Advocacy Hub letter on this topic, and asked that NCISS members reach out to their Members of Congress, encouraging them to co-sponsor the bill.
While SOSIA has not yet been reintroduced this year, the issue took on greater currency with the House passage of H.R. 695, the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017 (CPIA). HR 695 would do for child care providers and others with responsibility for vulnerable populations what SOSIA proposed to do for security service applicants.
In March, HR 695 passed the House. A Senate companion bill, S. 705 (Hatch, R-UT) has been referred to Senate Judiciary where it awaits action.
Given the close proximity of SOSIA to S.705, we engaged with key offices to:
1) find out if SOSIA will be reintroduced;
2) determine the outlook this Congress for CPIA; and
3) gauge the receptivity of CPIA sponsors to the addition of security service applicants to their legislation.
What we found was illuminating.
First, Senator Toomey has not yet made a decision as to whether he will re-introduce SOSIA this year. Importantly, Senator Grassley (R-Ia) - Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - had reservations last year about SOSIA, in that he believed that the FBI was already too backlogged with background investigations, and felt that once any particular class or profession was granted such privileges, others would soon be petitioning for similar treatment.
This objection weighs heavily in whether Toomey will reintroduce this Congress.
Last Congress, Senator Schumer (now Minority Leader Schumer) introduced legislation similar to CPIA which also included security service applicants. At that time, there was some members of Senate Judiciary expressed concern about including what they considered disparate classes of employees on the same legislation.
This Congress, CPIA largely tracks Schumer's legislation from last year, but conspicuously omits security service applicants. Senator Hatch's office - the sponsor of the Senate version of CPIA - intimated that this omission was purposeful to clear that objection. It still does not, however, clear Senator Grassley's underlying objections.
To move forward, Hatch's CPIA bill will need to be marked up by the committee. There do not appear to be any plans to do that any time soon. Among some significant but unanswered questions; 1) where does the Administration stand; 2) what does the FBI think, and does it have the practical ability to handle such an influx of requests; 3) would the FBI require additional funds and employees to complete such investigations; etc.
Moreover, the committee indicates that it has not received any Member requests to move forward on the bill, so it's not currently on their radar or agenda for action.
For our purposes, NCISS will now make the formal request to Senator Grassley to include security service applicants on the current Senate version of CPIA.
We will do so in the very near future, in order to allow the committee to run the necessary traps with the Executive Branch, etc.
As always, stay tuned!