Monday, February 2, 2015

Public Disclosure of Information Pertinent to a Classified Contract

By applying the five “Elements of Inspection” that are common to ALL cleared companies participating in the NISP, and the additional elements that might be applied at unique cleared facilities, facility security officers can control the opportunity a bit better. As a reminder, the DSS’ The Self-Inspection Handbook for NISP Contractors identifies five elements common to all cleared facilities are:

(A) Facility Security Clearance (FCL)
(B) Access Authorizations
(C) Security Education
(E) Classification

Using the DSS publication as the intended guidebook, FSOs can glean important information and ideas for applying the elements to their own facilities. This guidance just doesn’t get the cleared contractor ready for the inspection, but when applied, it solidifies a sound and proven security program.

The following article covers public disclosure of information pertinent to a classified contract. This is one area where a contractor can get jammed up unless addressed properly. Understanding how to request permission for public disclosure of this information is as important as protecting the information itself.

So, let’s begin with the topic in the self-inspection handbook.

Was approval of the Government Contracting Activity obtained prior to public disclosure of information pertaining to a classified contract?

I was advising a public relations unit for a small cleared defense contractor. This was a crack team that worked relentlessly on business development to keep the company profitable and employees at work. However, what they did not understand was the nuances of disclosing information pertinent to a classified contract. What they were good at is explaining how well the company performed on contracts. What they did not understand is that some of the information should not be disclosed without prior approval of the government customer. The government customer was very frustrated with the cleared defense contractor when the issue was raised.

Some information is good for both contractor and government agencies. Unless otherwise specified by the government customer, the contractor can freely publish the fact that a contract has been received, the subject matter of the contract, the method or type of contract, and total dollar amount of the contract unless that information reveals classified information. Additional information includes publishing decisions to hire additional employees or terminate existing employees.

This is all very general information and does not include intimate details about program efforts and capabilities. This general information is usually shared on websites, brochures, briefings, radio announcements and other media. Again, it’s good for business and there is no issue with disclosing the information. Keep in mind that information released specifically for a presentation, briefing, or conference must be considered open disclosure unless a classified setting or limited audience (export controls in place) is approved. Otherwise, if the information is considered too sensitive to put on a website, it should not be shared without approval.

In those situations where public disclosure is desired and approval necessary, it is important to document any GCA approval for public disclosure of unclassified information pertaining to a classified contract. The specific requirements should be found in the DD Form 254 and any directed specifications by the GCA.

According to NISPOM 5-511, the following should be implemented:

· Submit requests through the activity specified in the DD Form 254.

· Each request shall indicate the approximate date the contractor intends to release the information for public disclosure and identify the media to be used for the initial release.

· A copy of each approved request for release shall be retained for a period of one inspection cycle for review by DSS.

· All information developed subsequent to the initial approval shall also be cleared by the appropriate office prior to public disclosure.

A good practice is to use the above bullets as a checklist. Gain approval and document the approval ensuring the above requirements are met. File the approval with the required information and be prepared to demonstrate approval during the next DSS review.

For more information about meeting NISPOM and DSS requirements, see DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook.

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