Published Thursday, April 17, 2008 4:12 AM PDT


Committee meets on HSPD-12

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee held meetings April 9 on the status of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 and its impact on federal employees and contractors. The hearing directly affects Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees and their lawsuit against NASA.

On August 30, 2007, 28 scientists and engineers from JPL filed suit against NASA for their newly required background checks. The employees argued that the checks were extensive and violated the constitution and their rights. The lawsuit continues in both the District Court and the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

The hearing reviewed the current status of the required checks and released a report from the Government Accountability Office that found the program is incurring high cost and provided little benefit.

During the hearing Congressman Adam Schiff asked Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, why NASA interpreted the directive differently than other agencies, and asked for more extensive background checks.

“We are not trying to impose any requirements beyond what we believe the law requires for HSPD-12,” Griffin answered.

None of the employees that brought the lawsuit are in a classified or “sensitive” position at JPL.

“....Frankly, there are people at the Energy Department that are working on sensitive national security issues that are of equal significance than, I think, being down at JPL,” Schiff countered.