Agencies fall short on HSPD-12 deadline

GAO's 2nd look at HSPD-12

The Government Accountability Office is updating its February 2006 report on how agencies are meeting Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12.

Linda Koontz, GAO’s director of information management issues, said her office is surveying eight agency implementations, including ones at NASA and the departments of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Labor.

“We will be looking at selected agencies and what progress they have made in implementing the capabilities of HSPD-12-compliant cards, which will enhance security and achieve interoperability,” she said. “The report should be out by February.”

— Jason Miller

October is quickly becoming the month of reckoning for Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12.


For the third year in a row, agencies were scurrying to meet another fall deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget for the secure interoperable identification card program. Agencies have one more October deadline remaining: by Oct. 27, 2008, they must issue cards to more than 2 million employees and contractors. 


By Oct. 27, 2007, agencies had to complete background checks and issue credentials to all employees and contractors with 15 years or less of service. Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, reminded agency leaders Oct. 23 of this mandate and encouraged them to refocus senior leaders on this effort.


Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and information technology, issued a follow-on memo to agency chief information officers Oct. 26 requiring a new approach for agencies to report their HSPD-12 implementation status. 


Evans said agencies must send OMB quarterly reports, and her office will then issue a governmentwide progress statement.


According to IDmanagement.gov — the federal HSPD-12 Web site — many agencies have hundreds or thousands of employees and contractors with less than 15 years of service who still needed cards at the Oct. 27, 2007, deadline. And some agencies still are unsure how many contractors need background checks, despite OMB’s two-year-old mandate.


“We have done a lot, but this was the milestone we were trying to hit, and we didn’t,” Evans said. 


But Evans stressed that even though only 1 percent of the more than 2.3 million employees and contractors have cards, the goal is not just compliance.


“Agencies could mass-produce cards now, but this is a foundational effort,” she said. “When we get this right, there is so much more we will be able to do, so we want to ensure we are doing this right.”


Evans said agencies have completed about 97 percent of all background checks for employees and 79 percent for contractors. She expects the number of employees and contractors with cards to increase dramatically in the next three to six months. 


One agency official involved in HSPD-12 who requested anonymity said the Office of Personnel Management has done a good job in helping agencies meet the requirement by conducting background checks in a timely manner.


Kathy Dillaman, OPM’s associate director of investigative services, said the agency didn’t have a surge in the number of employees and contractors who needed the minimal investigation. She said agencies submitted about 150,000 more requests in 2007 for minimum background checks than they did in 2006. 


“Under HSPD-12, most employees need only a baseline investigation to access their facility, and that doesn’t require a field presence,” Dillaman said. “And with automated processing, 150,000 more people is not a lot.”


Dillaman said the average time for a basic background investigation has been about 45 days. 


The Labor Department is one of the few agencies that will come close to meeting the deadline. Patrick Pizzella, Labor CIO and assistant secretary for management, said the agency has issued about 9,500 cards, including about 8,800 to employees. He said 57 percent of all employees have cards.


“We coordinated what we saw as three legs of the stool: human resources, technology and security,” Pizzella said. “The real work has been getting people to come do this and track down the number of contractors.”

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