DOD, OPM said ready for security clearance reform

The Defense Department will be ready soon with plans to reform its security clearance processes, a department official said.

Greg Torres, director of security in DOD's Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security, said the department is almost ready to submit a reform plan to the Bush administration. The administration has told agencies responsible for security clearances to submit comprehensive reform proposals by April 30.

Torres said DOD plans a total transformation of its security clearance process, adding, “It is not an effort to try to fix the pieces that are broken.” He testified before the House Armed Service Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee on Feb. 13.

A memo from administration officials on Feb. 5 requested that agencies design consistent standards for processing security clearance applications and using information technology to improve efficiency and help share information across agencies.

Congress has also asked DOD for a similar report on the clearance processes.

These requests follow a 2006 governmentwide halt of the security clearance process to handle a growing backlog of applications. In both that year and 2007, Congress approved multimillion-dollar reprogramming requests to help speed the processes.

“We don’t want anymore surprise stoppages,” said Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.)

Kathy Dillaman, associate director of the Federal Investigative Services Division at the Office of Personnel Management, said her agency is now processing applications faster, with security clearances taking an average of 60 days to complete and 80 percent of applications getting filled in 90 days. In May, OMB Deputy Director for Management Clay Johnson said OPM took an average of 95 days to process applications.

OPM also has a pilot program with the Army for an electronic application submission system, and Dillaman said about 110,000 applications have been processed online. OPM is expanding the pilot program, adding the Transportation Department, the Transportation Security Administration and 10 other agencies.

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