vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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What’s Your Clearance, Clarence?

This struck me as unusual and/or interesting, so I thought I’d put it up here to see how you feel about it.

On Friday Tuesday, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce sent the following invite to a “Town Hall” meeting with Virginia Senator Mark Warner. (Here is the pdf version).

“U.S. Sen. Mark Warner will hold a lunchtime town hall meeting with Fredericksburg-area residents from noon-1 p.m. on Friday, May 13. The event will take place at ManTech International Corp., located at 925 Corporate Dr., Suite 101, Stafford, 22554.

RSVP’s must be accepted by Shannon Gross by the close of business on Wednesday, May 11. Citizenship must be confirmed at time of reservation. Call (703) 221-0200, ext. 51479 for more information. Lunch provided by Stafford County Economic Development.”

Our state government reporter, Chelyen Davis, is covering the event, but we both found the line about citizenship confirmation to be strange.  Neither of us had ever run into such a requirement before.

Now, I understand this is taking place at a private place of business–ManTech–and that they are a government contractor that is involved with some sensitive information. But the attendees of this meeting aren’t applying for jobs, and I doubt that attendees will come into contact with sensitive information. This is a citizenship check, not a security clearance to enter top secret areas. Likewise, we found it unusual that members of the press would have to prove their citizenship to cover a public event involving an elected official.

Stafford County’s Economic Development Authority is one of the sponsors of the event, and Deputy County Administrator Tim Baroody said the location was chosen both because of its size and to highlight the sort of successful government contracting business the county want to promote.

Baroody said that, should people be denied entry, Warner and his staff would try to accommodate them outside the facility and answer any questions they may have.

“Only certain folks can get into that facility,” Baroody said. “These guys do very serious work.”

When Chelyen asked about the proof of citizenship, a ManTech representative responded with:

“This is per- company policy following the guidelines in which we must enforce set forth by our U.S. Government.”

Chelyen also pointed out that it’s easier to get credentials to cover the President, something that many foreign reporters do. She also said that it’s not uncommon for elected officials to, say, tour parts of a business facility that require a federal clearance, but that they usually don’t hold town hall meetings during the tour and typically wait until they are out of the secure area before they speak to the press or the public.

So what do you think?


  • LarryG

    This is wrong and I bet if someone contacts Warner it gets changed.

  • US Citizen

    US Government rules for visitor access to a secured facility are quite clear. Non-US citizens are not allowed access. Citizens may be granted access for specific reasons, but if they do not have a clearance and an official reason to be in the building, then they must be escorted at all times.

    This is not a discrimination issue, this is a US Government security issue.

    A couple years ago, my office had to require our kitchen supplier to send a manager (who was a US Citizen) out every time their non-US Citizen driver delivered bottles of water. The non-citizen had to leave them in the lobby.

  • Ryan B.

    It involves export control, where even allowing a non-citizen to overhear something is a serious infraction. Smart on Man-Tech’s part to include that caveat, not smart on Warner’s part to hold his meeting somewhere where such measures are necessary.

  • 95SHSAlumn

    The two posts above are correct. The issue is that an open to the public type meeting should NOT be held in a closed secure facility.

    The Senator should either move the site (the parking lot would work too ya know…) or stop advertising it as a free to all event.