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Pentagon Prepares to Launch Mega Database for Screening National Security Workers

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The Pentagon next month is slated to launch one mega database for investigating the trustworthiness of personnel who could have access to federal facilities and computer systems.

The Defense Information System for Security, or DISS, will consolidate two existing tools used for vetting employees and job applicants. The reboot represents a reform spawned by leaks of classified data and shootings on military bases, Defense Department officials say.

DISS will provide “a common, comprehensive medium to request, record, document and identify personnel security actions," Aaron Siegel, alternate defense Federal Register liaison officer, said in a notification about the addition of the new system of records.

An older background check-management tool, the Joint Personnel Adjudication System, will move into DISS and take on a different acronym JVS, or the Joint Verification System. The current Case Adjudication Tracking system, or CATS, which shares completed investigations with other agencies, also will sit inside the application bundle.

The musical chairs is "part of the effort to reform the security clearance process within the federal government," according to the Defense Personnel and Security Research Center website.

DISS will track decisions about an individual’s eligibility to handle classified materials and fitness for employment, as well as suitability to enter government buildings and computer networks, Siegel says.

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The system also will aid with the "support of continuous evaluation and insider threat detection, prevention and mitigation activities," he says.

Continuous evaluation relies on automated data checks, rather than the traditional method of re-investigating employees every five years.

If all goes according to plan, DISS should interface with a new, massive information-sharing hub designed to flag potential traitors and other “insider threats.” Both systems are key to continuous evaluation.

DISS is expected to ping the hub for threat monitoring, a practice that exploits, among other profiling techniques, cybervetting. The research center considers that term to mean checking blogs, social media sites, and other Internet-based sources.

An agency or contractor that has hired a security-clearance holder can keep an eye on the employee's activities using DISS, Siegel explains in the notification. The White House also can take a peek to assess potential administration appointees.

In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can look inside for "use in alien admission and naturalization inquiries," Siegel says.

And records in the database can be searched during authorized counterintelligence activities to enforce laws that protect U.S. national security.

DISS is expected to go online July 16, pending a comment period that ends July 15.

Last summer, the Pentagon temporarily unplugged JPAS as a precaution, after a historic breach of 21.5 million background check records. A vulnerability in an Office of Personnel Management tool that links to the system was discovered during a probe of the hack.

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