If an authorization holder intends to travel abroad, an email must be sent to the FSO at least 10 working days before departure. Image: charles taylor / Shutterstock.com

Dan Meyer, Esq. And Lachlan McKinion, TR legal clerk

The recent reform of the facility clearance regulations now requires more corporate facility security officers (FSOs). On February 24, 2021, the NISPOM Rule was codified into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In addition to adding NISPOM to the CFR, this rule encodes the provisions of the Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 3, “Reporting Requirements for Personnel with Access to Classified Information or in a Sensitive Position”.

With this change comes the adoption of new criteria for the information that authorized sector personnel must report. According to these rules, people must disclose information about their international travel, finances, personal relationships and other circumstances. Previously, these were not supposed to be reported, but some organizations may have applied them internally.

These specifications are taken directly from SEAD 3, which, until now, only applied to civil servants via NISPOM. Now, private industry employees will be held to the same standards as those in the government sector.

The newly strengthened Counter-Intelligence and Defense Security Agency (DCSA) pushed reform to report overseas travel as required by SEAD 3. New IT tools and the ability to present overseas travel in bulk were provided became “active” on August 24, 2022. Therefore, as of August 24, 2022, all federal contract employees in possession of a personnel clearance (security clearance or “PCL”) must report any travel abroad to its Facility Security Officers (FSO).

Although the goal of these changes is to help licensed workers independently enforce safety standards, the Department of Defense has recognized the challenges for individuals authorized to submit new reports in the system of record (Defense Information Security System [DISS]) through a counterintelligence dataset of over one million employees working for 12,000 licensed facilities. Foreign intelligence services could be active in any of these facilities, including yours, right now.

When contemplating traveling abroad
All holders of security clearances are required by the Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 3 to report international travel prior to departure. In addition to pre-approval, individuals must disclose their travel schedule to their security officer and should attend a safety briefing prior to travel.

If an authorization holder intends to travel abroad, an email must be sent to the FSO at least 10 working days before departure. Corporate leadership may require longer notice from the planned travel date, but it is generally advisable to notify leadership at least two weeks in advance of the planned travel date. In this email, it is important not only to include where you will be traveling, but also the length of time you will be traveling abroad.

Upon receiving this email, the FSO will usually send employees a company form to gather some additional information requested by SEAD 3. Along with the forms, it will also send out any state department travel advisories covering destination countries.

Our recommendation to Tully Rinckey’s customers is the same as it is for the safe reader: A regular practice of all prudently licensed business executives and their employees is to maintain a spreadsheet of all travel abroad, which lists the essential travel data points. This will help in reporting before and after the movement, as well as when required to submit Standard Form 86, National Security Questionnaire. Yes, this is onerous, especially in a global networked economy, but it is a transaction cost now demanded by an elite and protected workforce.

Presentation of business forms
When these business forms are presented, there are a few key things that employees should include. Along with the above, destination and travel dates, employees must also include a complete itinerary and US and / or foreign passport information (if dual citizens). In addition, the FSO will organize a travel safety briefing for employees prior to departure. It is recommended that safety information be included in the briefing as part of the filing of company forms. After the employee has filled out the company form and returned it to the FSO, he is ready to travel.

An additional precaution that an employee may want to take is to sign the form so that there is no doubt about a UST doing “batch fill” to pass an inspection.

Following the completion of these pre-travel forms, the FSO will open the subject’s profile in DISS and create a travel report abroad, entering the dates on which the holder of the authorization will travel, the date on which he communicated for the first time the trip, the reason for the trip and any other notes, such as the mode of transport and other relevant information. After the FSO has made this initial registration, the file is formed and updates can be made upon arrival of changes or upon completion of the debriefing.

Post-trip debriefing
Once the cleared employee returns from overseas travel, the FSO carries out a debriefing on overseas travel within five (5) business days. If the employee answers “no” to all of these questions, he has fulfilled his federal responsibilities for reporting overseas travel.

However, if they answer “yes” to any of the questions asked, the authorization holder will have to provide further information. These follow-up questions are intended to ensure that the FSO carries out due diligence in the reporting process. After the employee has filled out this form, he signs it and returns it to the FSO.

After the employee returns and completes the overseas travel briefing, the FSO enters all relevant additional information into DISS and then marks the report as “debriefed”. Once a trip report is flagged, the file will not be available during review.

This report will eventually reappear and the FSO will need to keep a physical record of the pre-trip form that debriefing employees fill out in case they need to access it before the report is accessible within DISS. This record can be kept as long as the employee remains in the company.

Stay up to date on reporting the reporting process
While the new reporting requirements will likely create confusion for a number of years and may even prompt some PCL holders to win a judgment as a security issue based on non-compliance, by staying on top of your agency’s reporting requirements, you can better protect your travel plans and security clearance.

Dan Meyer, Managing Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Washington, DC office, has devoted more than 25 years of service to the field of federal labor and national security law both as a practicing attorney and as a federal investigator and senior executive. He is a leader in advocating for service members, federal civilian employees, and contractors as they fight to maintain their credentials, suitability, and security clearances. Lachlan McKinion supports the needs of TR’s national security corporate clientele. Mr. Meyer can be contacted at [email protected] or at (888) 529-4543.

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