Voinovich hot about security clearance delays

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) grilled federal workforce officials today about a backlog of 185,000 security clearance cases that forces prospective FBI and CIA employees and others “to sit idly for months” while their cases are processed.

Officials seem unable to clear up the backlog because of its sheer size, an influx of new requests since Sept. 11, 2001, and a lack of a good plan for managing the process, Voinovich said, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee.

In this fiscal year alone, Office of Personnel Management officials anticipate conducting about 900,000 background investigations to determine the trustworthiness or suitability of individuals to have jobs as systems and network administrators and similar positions of public trust.

At today’s hearing, Voinovich said the security clearance process is a major national security and human capital challenge that needs to be solved immediately. “I’m going to be on this like a junkyard dog,” he said.

Voinovich vowed to get security clearance program off the high-risk list, referring to its status as one of 25 federal programs on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list to receive special scrutiny and monitoring.

In February, the Defense Department transferred its security clearance investigation workforce to OPM as required under the 2004 Defense authorization bill.

Voinovich said President Bush signed an executive order June 28 that makes OPM the primary federal agency responsible for investigating security clearance applications and gives the Office of Management and Budget responsibility for setting federal policies on security clearances.

The executive order implements provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Voinovich said.

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