September 4, 2003
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today commended the Department of Energy for radically revising its polygraph test policy in the wake of a National Academy of Science report questioning the reliability of such tests.
Domenici Commends DOE for Sharply Reducing Number of Employees Subject to Polygraph Testing
Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle E. McSlarrow announced the changes Thursday at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on DOE's polygraph test policy.
DOE proposes a substantial reduction in the use of polygraph tests, confining the tests to employees working with sensitive information. The agency's changes will be guided by the NAS report. DOE expects to publish a proposed rule reflecting the changes by the end of the year.
The policy change was welcomed by Domenici, who has been critical of existing DOE reliance on extensive polygraph tests as a security screening tool for its employees, including workers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.
"This is a smart decision by DOE," Domenici said. "I have been appalled by the DOE's continued massive use of polygraph tests in the wake of a national study condemning the reliability of these tests. Our national scientists deserve better. We hold our scientists' work to the highest standard of accuracy and reliability and then we impose on them something as sloppy and subjective as polygraph tests. That practice is indefensible."
"I commend DOE for announcing plans to substantially reduce the number of people subject to polygraphs and to ensure that no negative actions are taken based on a single polygraph result. I look forward to learning more details of their new policy, but it's clear already that the revised policy will be an immense improvement," he said.
In testimony submitted to the committee, McSlarrow noted that the new policy will likely reduce the number of people subject to polygraphs from a current estimated number of 20,000 to approximately 4,500. All counterintelligence positions will still be subject to polygraph tests as will all employees filling positions in Headquarters Office of Intelligence, at the Field Intelligence Elements and in the DOE Special Access Programs.
Employees at non-DOE Special Access Programs may also be subjected to the tests if it is a requirement of the program sponsor. Other groups will be screened based on continued access to all DOE-originated Top Secret information, including Top Secret Restricted Data and Top Secret National Security Information.
Domenici authored legislation, later incorporated into the FY2002 Defense Authorization Act, that required the DOE secretary and National Nuclear Security Administration administrator to implement a new DOE polygraph program based on the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Polygraph Review. Senator Jeff Bingaman cosponsored the legislation.
The NAS subsequently issued a report concluding that while polygraph tests have proven effective under some circumstances, they are not an effective way for DOE to screen current and prospective employees.