About 83,000 Defense Department employees and contractors with secret or top-secret clearances owe about $730 million in back taxes, according to a new report.
The audit by the Government Accountability Office—conducted over the last six months—applies to records from January 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2011 and includes those who were applying for their first clearance or upgrading to a higher level.
About 25 percent of those with tax debt hold or were deemed eligible for top secret or SCI clearance and owe about $249 million combined, according to the GAO.
“The number of personnel determined eligible for clearance or who currently hold a security clearance underscores the importance of security-clearance adjudicators conducting thorough vulnerability assessments of security-clearance applicants as these clearances may allow government personnel to gain access to classified information that, through unauthorized disclosure, can in some cases cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security,” said GAO acting director of forensic audits Seto Bagdoyan in a letter to Congress.
Some employees are actively trying to pay their back taxes with about 40 percent of those enrolled in a prepayment plan with the IRS, according to the report.
The Director of National intelligence, the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department did not have any comments on the report, according to the GAO.
Evan Lesser, founder and managing director of security clearance job site Clearancejobs.com, said the findings should raise alarms with the defense and intelligence communities.
“As government scrambles to find the next insider threat, history tells us that security-cleared individuals in financial trouble are the most vulnerable to coercion,” Lesser said.