Sen. Jon Tester wants cleared personnel who owe back taxes to have their access limited. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Defense Department employees and contractors with security clearances who owe back taxes are a potential security threat that DoD must work harder to limit, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, wrote in an Aug. 27 letter to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.
Tester wrote the letter in response to a July 28 Government Accountability Office report showing about 83,000 DoD employees and contractors with secret and top-secret clearances owed a combined $730 million in back taxes. (See related story)
“This unacceptable situation raises national security concerns and sends the message to taxpayers that some folks don’t have to play by the rules, but can still be trusted with access to our nation’s most sensitive information,” Tester wrote.
He said DoD and other agencies should more thoroughly investigate applicants financial backgrounds and should detail plans on how the government plans to recoup the back taxes. Clapper should also work to restrict the access of employees and contractors with unpaid taxes, Tester added.
Tester also asked Clapper to provide information relating to whether some contractors and employees received secret or top-secret clearances while owing taxes, or if any clearances had been suspended or denied based off applicants owing back taxes.
“Some of these individuals with delinquent tax debt are jeopardizing our national security because of poor judgment and decision-making,” said Tester, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. “Potentially harmful financial behaviors should not be ignored after an individual is granted or deemed eligible to have a security clearance.”