OPM progressing on e-clearances

OPM's e-gov site

The Office of Personnel Management is making progress on speeding up the time it takes federal employees to receive security clearances.

OPM is the lead agency on the e-Clearance program — one of the president's 24 e-government initiatives. The goal is to move from a paper-based system to an electronic clearance system, but it has to happen one step at a time, said John Crandell, e-Clearance project manager at OPM.

"We don't have systems that we can collapse into one e-clearance system so that presents a challenge," he said.

Still, OPM is making progress. Expected imminently on OPM's Web site is the SF 86C form, which is designed to help people who have to complete the traditional clearance form repeatedly — for example contractors who must submit such a form to many different agencies. The new form will allow the applicants to certify that no information has changed, if that is the case, or to make any necessary changes, Crandell said. "This will save time and money" and take minutes to fill out rather than hours, he added.

Other forms, including customized agency forms, eventually will be available as well, Crandell said.

Other milestones are on the map. By the end of January, OPM expects to load civilian agency clearance information into the OPM Security/Suitability Investigations Index and connect it to the Defense Department's Joint Personnel Adjudication System. This will create a cross-agency clearance verification system that for the first time will allow agencies to locate investigative and clearance information via one search in either system and for any agency.

Meanwhile, the imaging aspect of the e-Clearance project is on schedule for completion at the end of May 2003, Crandell said. This phase includes the creation, storage and retrieval of digital image agency investigative information stored in 17 repositories.

"The imaging schedule is challenging," Crandell said. "Our deadline is May 31 to start imaging records in 17 repositories, and we still have an acquisition to go through." OPM will look to buy a solution for this next year, he added. Crandell was speaking last week at a conference presented by Potomac Forum Ltd. and Federal Sources Inc.

Already under way in beta test is e-QIP (electronic questionnaires for investigations processing), which automates the standard clearance questionnaire form. This form normally takes a couple of hours to complete, must be completed from scratch and is then processed manually. E-QIP, scheduled for a June 30, 2003, rollout, will make the form electronically transmittable and will store previously submitted data, saving applicants time.

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