Secrecy News

Wanted: A Chef with a Top Secret Clearance

A secure U.S. government facility in Herndon, Virginia needs a master chef who holds or who can obtain a Top Secret security clearance.

The job opening was announced by Sodexo, the international food service company.

“Sodexo’s Government Services Division is seeking a strong Executive Chef to manage all the culinary operations at a high profile government dining account in Northern Virginia. The successful candidate must be able to obtain a TS/SCI clearance,” the announcement said.

Though it may seem ridiculous, the requirement for a chef with a Top Secret clearance exemplifies a significant policy problem, namely the use of the security clearance process as an employee screening tool.

To all appearances, a chef does not need a security clearance. Although the successful applicant “must become familiar with Sodexo recipes,” those recipes are not national security secrets, and a clearance should not needed to perform the job of Executive Chef.

Nevertheless, a clearance requirement has evidently been imposed because the “culinary operations” are to be conducted in a secure government facility that will place the chef in proximity to secrets, even if he or she does not actually come into possession of any.

This use of the national security clearance process has contributed to the skyrocketing growth in security-cleared personnel. As of October 2013, the number of persons eligible for access to classified information had grown to 5.1 million persons, including over 1.5 million with Top Secret clearances. According to an ODNI report, only 60% of those persons had access to classified information, suggesting that vastly more clearances are being requested and granted than are actually required.

A February 2014 report to the President from the Office of Management and Budget said the security clearance system had become too large and that it needed to be reduced.

“[The] growth in the number of clearance-holders increases costs and exposes classified national security information, often at very sensitive levels, to an increasingly large population,” said the OMB review.

Accordingly, the OMB recommended that the government “reduce [the] total population of 5.1M Secret and TS/SCI clearance holders to minimize risk of access to sensitive information and reduce cost.”

Eliminating the TS/SCI clearance requirement for access to the kitchens and dining rooms of government facilities might be a sensible place to start.

Food service at CIA headquarters, which has been managed by Sodexo, was the subject of some persnickety complaints from CIA employees that were recently disclosed through the Freedom of Information Act by MuckRock. (WaPo)

The Department of Defense revoked more than 19,000 existing security clearances from FY2009 through the first half of FY2013, DoD told Congress in a hearing record that was published earlier this month.

 

Leave a Reply