Senator asks why Navy intel leaders have kept their jobs without access to secrets
By David B. Larter
Vice Adm. Ted Branch, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance and Director of Naval Intelligence for the U.S. Navy speaks at CyberCon 2015 Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday, November 18, 2015.
The Navy's intelligence boss Navy intelligence and his deputy have been without a security clearance for more than two years. Now a lawmaker on the Senate Intelligence Committee the senior senator from Virginia is calling foul, saying it’s unfair for senior leadership to keep their jobs while in the intelligence community where rank-and-file intelligence personnel are removed routinely for losing their access to secrets. would have been removed and replaced for loss of a thing as crucial as access to secrets. would have been removed.
Vice Adm. Ted "Twig" Branch, director of naval intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, director of the Information Dominance office, have been hamstrung since November 2013, when their high-level clearances top secret, sensitive compartmented information clearances were suspended amid an investigation into their ties to their ties to when questions arose about their dealings with "Fat" Leonard Francis, the Malaysian contractor at the center one of the largest bribery scandals in Navy history.
Branch, who has less access to secrets than an ensign, has retained his job heading the Navy's intelligence gathering and assessment, despite his inability to see much of the work they produce. Loveless, a career intelligence officer, was transferred after the suspension to be the corporate director of Information Dominance.
Both Branch and Loveless had their security clearances suspended by they have not been removed or forced to retire.
"I am concerned about the impact that the admirals' continued presence in these roles while lacking a clearance might have on the Navy's operational effectiveness," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., wrote in a Thursday letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. "Moreover, I see this issue as inconsistent with the broader intelligence community practices that require rank-and-file intelligence officers to maintain security clearances to perform their jobs."
Warner, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee, asked Mabus to explain the impact this dilemma is having on the intel community and what the service is doing to resolve it. what the Navy is and has been doing to resolve this dilemma. Some intelligence sources have told Navy Times that this limbo has hamstrung the Navy intel community and who feel they feel they don't have a seat at the table with top officials like the director of national intelligence. Warner also wants an answer about the impact this is situation is
ctify the situation and why the Navy hasn't moved more quickly to replace Branch and Loveless. Warner also is seeking an explanation as to why the senior leaders are being treated differently than lower-ranking intel officers, and what negative impact their continued service in senior positions is having on the community.
The issue has regained the public spotlight after a The Washington Post article noting that the intel leaders had gone over 800 days without access to government secrets. information. marking more than 800 days since Branch and Loveless had their clearance suspended.
The Justice Department is looking into whether Branch took a gift from Francis or anyone associated with Glenn Defense Marine Asia during his time in command of the carrier Nimitz, Navy sources said, with some cautioning that the department’s source may have confused Branch with another senior officer. The officers' clearances were initially believed to be temporary, until DOJ cleared the officers, brought charges or referred ethical violations to the Navy.
Branch, a career F/A-18 pilot known by his handle "Twig," led the carrier Nimitz from 2004 to 2007, including a Western Pacific deployment with port calls in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Guam; this deployment was the basis for the TV miniseries "Carrier." Since his clearance was pulled, Branch has focused on raising awareness in the fleet about cyberthreats and steering money toward cybersecurity needs.
In September, the Navy nominated Rear Adm. Elizabeth Train, who is serving as Branch’s stand-in at classified briefings, to be the new director of naval intelligence. in September. But so far the nomination has been stymied and it is unclear when or even if she will have become director of naval intelligence.
Branch will hit his third year as the director of naval intelligence in July, making it more likely that he would be able to retire with the larger pension afforded to a three-star. But a senior Navy source insisted to The Post that Branch's retirement grade has no bearing on the decision to retain him in the job.
Mabus did not respond to a request for comment on Warner's letter by press time.
About David B. Larter
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.