Centralizing clearances

The intelligence reform bill recently passed by Congress includes provisions to make it easier to get a security clearance to work in the federal government and a national database to keep track of them.

The legislation, which President Bush is expected to sign, calls for designating a government agency to oversee and conduct security clearances. That is a change from the current haphazard system that agencies use.

It also calls for the head of the agency to develop a plan to reduce the length of the security clearance process within five years. There have been many complaints from contractors and federal officials that it can take as long as a year for the FBI and other agencies to complete a security clearance.

The national database that is included in the legislation will be set up to keep track of clearances and reciprocity among clearances at the same level. However, there were no immediate estimates provided for the cost or time requirements of setting up a database.

The intelligence bill creates a director of national intelligence who would replace the director of the Central Intelligence Agency as the president's senior intelligence advisor. The new director would have broader budgetary responsibilities and would be in charge of monitoring and tasking domestic and foreign intelligence operations.

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