USAID’s resources to meet its development and humanitarian assistance mission include people, information, funding and facilities.
The Office of Security’s role is to support USAID and those resources. It does so in accordance with a number of laws, Presidential orders, Executive Branch-issued guidance as well as policy established by the Department of State.
Individuals seeking employment in USAID must undergo a background investigation and subsequently be determined to meet nationally established standards for federal employment and obtaining a security clearance. These standards are contained in Executive Orders and pertain primarily to a person having unswerving loyalty to the U.S., having integrity and exercising sound judgment. USAID employees are periodically re-investigated to ensure they remain eligible to retain their security clearance and employment.
The Security Office has a Personnel Security Division that conducts the investigations of applicants and employees and adjudicates the results to help ensure USAID’s workforce meets the highest standards required of federal employees. USAID’s security clearance processing is meeting the legislated timeline to complete 90% of all applicant investigations in an average of 60 days.
The information about USAID’s development and humanitarian assistance programs is intentionally open and public; to perform the agency’s mission, USAID employees work directly with non-government organizations, contractors, United Nations organizations and host country governments. However, in order for USAID employees to effectively and efficiently carry out the agency’s programs, they often must have access to sensitive and sometimes classified information provided by other federal departments and agencies. Such information may pertain to U.S. foreign policy and relations as well as security conditions and threat data.
Like many other federal employees, especially those assigned to overseas locations, USAID staff can be the target of foreign intelligence services, criminal and terrorist elements. USAID employees must be made aware of the techniques used by criminal, terrorist and intelligence organizations. The Security Office provides a variety of training to employees to arm them with the necessary knowledge so that they can properly protect sensitive and classified information and themselves as well. On those occasions when other departments and agencies provide sensitive and classified information to USAID, they do so with the expectation that agency employees will protect it; doing so is critical for USAID to retain that trust and carry out its development mission.
To meet these needs, the Office of Security has a team devoted to counterintelligence matters. This unit has the specific goals of: 1) educating employees on the threat posed by foreign intelligence to USAID domestic and international operations; 2) developing and conducting travel related pre-briefings and debriefings and 3) conducting counterintelligence training for new and existing employees.
USAID issues contracts and grants to a wide variety of private organizations. These entities in turn may issue sub-contracts/grants. USAID uses a variety of tools available to ensure that the organizations it works with are legitimate, well managed and are able to implement USAID’s development programs in an efficient effective manner. In addition, legislation and Presidential orders specifically prohibit any U.S. Government transactions or dealings with entities or individuals designated as terrorists.
USAID employs various procedures to comply with those mandates. The Security Office plays a key role in the use of screening procedures to help ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fall into the hands of individuals or organizations associated with terrorism. The Partner Vetting System, currently authorized under legislation as a pilot program, is one aspect of USAID’s standard due diligence practices and risk mitigation approach.
The USAID headquarters are located in both the Ronald Reagan Building and several other facilities in the Washington D.C. area. Overseas, the majority of USAID missions are co-located in U.S. embassy buildings. Security standards are developed for both U.S.-based facilities and overseas offices. The Security Office works closely with components of the Department of Homeland Security to ensure USAID’s D.C.-based buildings meet federal security standards. The Security Office staff also works very closely with the Department of State’s Bureau for Diplomatic Security to ensure USAID facilities meet overseas security standards.