OPM wants new evaluation of security clearance process

Office of Personnel Management officials think the government is making progress on improving the timeliness and quality of its personnel security clearance investigations. In fact, OPM wants the Government Accountability Office to have another look at the situation.

In a September 2006 report, GAO found that the government was not meeting its goals for processing background investigations. The system, GAO said, seemed unable to maintain investigative standards consistently under the strain of increased demand for clearances.

But OPM Director Linda Springer said recently that considerable improvement has been made since GAO did the field work for the report and asked Congress to request an updated report from GAO.

“I believe that if Congress asked GAO to conduct an update to this review, they would find that substantial progress has been made on issues of concern and that the timeliness and quality of investigations has improved greatly,” she said.

Last May, Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, told lawmakers that OPM had reduced the time it takes to fulfill the most recently initiated security clearances. Investigations that agencies had begun since October 2006 took 95 days to complete, compared to an average of 155 days in 2005, he said.

The demand for security clearances has increased dramatically since the 2001 terrorist attacks, creating a major backlog of cases.

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