EMPLOYEES throughout the Department of Energy complex will soon be filling out security clearance and reinvestigation forms on their desktop computers, thanks to a system developed at Lawrence Livermore that applies the latest computer and communication technologies to DOE's personnel security program. The new system, developed by LLNL's Fission Energy and Systems Safety Program (FESSP), promises to transform the traditionally slow--and costly--paper-based data collection systems to the Electronic Age, resulting in significant savings in time and money, as well as increased productivity and improved user satisfaction and attitudes about paperwork.|
The modernization of the personnel security elements of DOE's Integrated Safeguards and Security System (DISS) is expected to shave at least a month off the average clearance process and save the DOE complex nearly $30 million annually. The project, nearly completed, is essentially reinventing how DOE and the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Boyers, Pennsylvania, process some 30,000 security clearances and reinvestigations annually and how the agencies maintain and communicate their voluminous personnel data.
The $12-million effort, begun in July 1993, taps the talents of some 25 people drawn from FESSP and the Laboratory's Computation and Engineering directorates who are expert in large computer systems integration and electronic commerce. Project leaders expect to have the new system deployed at 11 DOE operations offices, more than 30 maintenance and operations contractors, DOE Headquarters, and the OPM by the end of Fiscal Year 1996. DOE's Oakland Operations Office, which worked closely with FESSP during a December 1994 pilot evaluation, will be first to go online, followed by LLNL and Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore.
FESSP, along with its nuclear safety work, has long supported the federal government in meeting its security needs for facilities, personnel, and computer data. FESSP experts conducted a security vulnerability assessment of the U.S. Senate computer network and helped to produce an interactive version of the Vice President's "Reinventing Government" report for the Internet.
FESSP also cooperated in the design of Argus, an interconnected, computer-based system for access control, intrusion detection, and command and control that serves LLNL's Livermore and Site 300 facilities. Argus is saving the Laboratory some $20 million annually, and DOE has selected the system as the standard automated electronic security technology for the entire complex. Presently FESSP is overseeing installations of Argus high-security systems at DOE's Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.
The FESSP projects are part of a growing Lawrence Livermore expertise in aiding government and industry to do business more effectively by integrating the latest computer and hardware advances. The Computation Directorate's Technology Information Systems Program, for example, has automated procurement practices for the Air Force's Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the Veterans Administration in Long Beach, California; enabled the Laboratory (and soon other DOE sites) to authorize payment to suppliers using the Internet; and helped establish new standards for the worldwide electronic interchange of blueprints and other data.
Filing Prodigious Amounts of Paper
DISS program leader Scott Strait notes that DOE's personnel clearance activities, like those of most government departments, involve processing and filing prodigious amounts of paper, resulting in slow transmission of information and labor-intensive procedures. All applicant data, for example, are sent from DOE sites to the OPM as paper forms, where they are typed twice into a computer. Several operations offices maintain independent databases of applicant data, and each runs on different software. These systems are not tied electronically to DOE's central mainframe databases, requiring duplicate entry in local and Headquarters' systems.
The job facing FESSP experts was the creation of an integrated electronic system that could be implemented uniformly across the DOE complex with common--and secure--communications, databases, and user interfaces. In short, the Laboratory's team was asked to create a seamless, integrated system among DOE sites, operations offices, Headquarters, and the OPM where an authorized user could gain access to personnel information, no matter where it is stored in the DOE complex.
The overall goals included a reduction in the time to process security clearance requests; improved tracking and monitoring of the clearance process; improved data accessibility, timeliness, and quality; and greater productivity for DOE and contractors. A potential savings from the reduction in clearance time also may be fewer requests for clearances once managers realize how quickly individuals can be cleared.
FESSP people standardized procedures across the DOE complex to eliminate the inefficiencies from maintaining different processes in every operations office. They also standardized the local databases so that the operations offices no longer need to maintain their own software separately. These databases will now store in consistent form all applicant data entry, contractor and DOE additions, notes, current status, scanned documents, fingerprint images, secure e-mail messages, and the database access audit trail. Livermore developers also designed DOE's main personnel security databases to share common data with each other and the operations offices nationwide.
The new system is being linked to DOE's Visitor Access Database to provide the necessary information to interact with automated access control systems at DOE sites and for ensuring DOE badge accountability. This link eliminates the need to re-badge DOE and DOE-contractor visitors from off-site who need entry through automated access control systems and who hold the proper clearance. At LLNL, this change will reduce the number of visitor badges issued annually by about 16,000.
In creating the electronic forms for clearance applicants to enter their data, FESSP people incorporated the latest advances in electronic commerce and interactive technologies and data security features. As an example, they developed a system-wide infrastructure of secure "digital signatures" (a series of numbers unique to an individual) to assure the authenticity of information. They also integrated specialized software that permits the electronic transfer of fingerprints.
The developers had to keep in mind the large amounts of required data, geographically dispersed DOE contractor population, and the wide range of applicant computer skills and hardware. To ensure that an application is complete, for example, they added internal checks to the computer fields, so that warnings pop up if a field is left blank.
Filling Out Forms on a PC
Indeed, the project's biggest impact on most employees will be the opportunity to complete their personnel security forms on their own desktop computers. With interactive software developed by FESSP, applicants will know before they transmit clearance forms to their on-site security office whether their data meet OPM requirements. The data will then be relayed electronically to the DOE Field Office, which in turn will advance it to the OPM.
One of the developers' most important tasks was to assure the privacy of data. FESSP experts developed numerous "firewalls" against intruders and eavesdroppers. In addition, database security features will assure that only those with a "need to know" will have access to personnel data. Finally, all information will be sent over DOEBN, DOE's specialized communication network, and will be automatically encrypted.
Strait says that one of the biggest benefits from the modernization project will be an improvement in a factor hard to quantify--morale. Reduction in clearance processing time, he says, should improve attitudes of DOE and contractor employees awaiting a clearance or a clearance upgrade. And with reduced difficulties in accessing sites throughout the complex, the attitudes of visitors are sure to improve as well.