Published November 19, 2002
Volume 10, Number 11

Defense Security Service Investigates Personnel for the Department of Defense and Government Contractors

By George Walsh
Special to Network

In most companies, some sort of background check is done on potential employees before they are hired, even if it only involves calling past employers to request references or verifying the applicant’s educational background. In some cases, however, an employee’s background can have a bearing on national security. 

That’s where the Defense Security Service enters the picture. As a Department of Defense (DoD) agency, DSS conducts personnel security investigations and provides industrial security products and services along with security education and training to DoD and other government entities. DSS employs around 2,600 people throughout the U.S.and Puerto Rico. Almost half of the DSS workforce is comprised of Special Agents who perform approximately 500,000 personnel security investigations each year. Another 230 DSS employees are Industrial Security Representatives who oversee, advise and assist more than 11,000 contractor facilities involved with classified contracts and research and development efforts.

DSS’s office in Hacienda at 4637 Chabot Drive is primarily dedicated to personnel security investigations and employs around 20 people. Not just any organization can request that the DSS perform an investigation, however. 

“In order for us to do a personnel security investigation, a person has to be affiliated with the Department of Defense,” says Judy Hughes, a DSS deputy director responsible for personnel security investigations. “They either have to be an active duty military member, a civilian employee, or a contractor.” As an individual private citizen, for example, you can’t make a request for the DSS to do a background investigation on yourself or others. You would have to be an employee or a consultant or in some way affiliated with either a “cleared” company, a defense agency, or one of the U.S. military services. The organization that is directly involved with the government would have to make the request for an investigation.

Because of the large number of high-tech and other companies working under contract for the U.S. government in the Tri-Valley area, Hacienda was a logical choice in picking a location for a DSS office, which has been in the Park since October 1999. “The industry in that area is heavily involved in defense work,” Hughes says. “And there’s also military in the vicinity. We place our offices where our work is because our field work involves flying agents out and interviewing people. Many of our interviews are done at the employing company or the employing military element, so it’s a central location to do a high volume of work.”

The need for personnel security investigations has increased in the past year or so due to new national security issues. “Certainly, the number of investigations has gone up dramatically and certainly Operation Enduring Freedom is the primary driver of that,” Hughes says. “As forces are deployed in the war against terrorism, there’s a requirement to clear people, so the number of investigations have gone up substantially.” The new demand for personnel security investigations can be seen not only in the Department of Defense, but in transportation security-including the airport security program. 

No matter what the venue, personnel investigations are important in areas of national security. That makes the DSS a critical part of making national security work.


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