ARRL Tells Red Cross of Remaining Background Check Policy Concerns
ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, has written to Armond T. Mascelli, Vice President for Domestic Disaster response for the American Red Cross (ARC) to identify the ARRL's remaining concerns over the background check policy for ARC partners. Harrison emphasized that the commencement of negotiation of a replacement Statement of Understanding (SOU) between the two organizations should not be further delayed while these concerns are resolved and that he looked forward to signing a new SOU once additional edits to the background check Disclosure Form and clarifications of the background check Authorization Form are in place for those radio amateurs who volunteer their service to the Red Cross.
Harrison first wrote to Mascelli on November 28, 2007, setting out the ARRL's concerns with the background check procedures recently implemented by the ARC. ARC now requires a background check for Amateur Radio volunteers seeking to support a Red Cross disaster relief response for more than a seven day period. In the ARRL's view, Amateur Radio volunteers were being asked to consent to a more intrusive background check than was necessary or appropriate.
Mascelli's reply on May 8, 2008, addressed some of the ARRL's concerns and Harrison's latest letter to the ARC -- sent on June 30, 2008 -- recognizes considerable improvement in the forms related to the background check procedures that are linked via the ARC's Web site; however, Harrison also states that analysis of the forms has revealed two continuing problems:
- The Authorization for Background Investigation consent form still contains "some highly equivocal and broad language which, because of its ambiguity, will inevitably discourage substantial numbers of radio amateurs from participating in the background check process." This form was not included with Mascelli's reply and was not seen by the ARRL until later.
- The "Disclosure Regarding Background Investigation" can still be construed as overly broad, although this can be corrected by fairly simple edits.
Harrison told Mascelli, "We do not want the implementation of these additional changes to further delay the negotiation of the terms of a replacement SOU. A new SOU is, in my view, a critical and urgent matter. Because the old SOU expired on September 16, 2007, the vacuum thereafter has served neither ARRL nor ARC well." ARRL and ARC staff are ready to work on a draft replacement SOU, the text of which will be reviewed by the ARRL's Programs and Services Committee and approved by either the Executive Committee or the Board prior to completion.
Harrison concluded, "We look forward to continuing to provide seamless disaster response communications by Amateur Radio and to enhancing and expanding ARRL's proud partnership with the American Red Cross. I look forward to meeting with you and executing the new SOU once additional edits to the Disclosure Form, and adequate clarifications are included in the Authorization Form that appears on your web site for partner organizations are made, and when the new SOU terms are agreed upon."