Money seen as problem for clearance process

Uncertain funding may be the biggest hurdle to reforming the government’s security clearance system, Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management, said recently.

At the Information Technology Association of America’s Security Clearance Reform conference May 7, government officials who drafted a plan for expediting security clearance applications and background checks said the new process could face a number of difficulties over the coming months.

Johnson – who helped draft the new process – said money might be the biggest barrier because the modernized security clearance system must be paperless.

“There are going to be expensive ways of doing things,” Johnson said. “We have to be smart about how we architect this thing,”

Johnson said, in his experience, the government often throws a lot of money at major information technology projects, but not enough wisdom.

OMB sent the proposal for the new security clearance process to President Bush April 30. The administration told the budget agency, along with several other agencies, to draft the plan.

The proposed process leans heavily on IT solutions. They include implementing online applications along with automated records checks and scoring systems. However, some of these new functions may require changes in agency policy.

For example, Beth McGrath, the principal deputy under secretary of Defense for business Transformation, said the new plan called for a continuous evaluation process that would regularly evaluate a potential employee can be trusted with classified information.

The advantage of that process is that agencies can quickly get an accurate snapshot of the viability of a candidate. However, candidates may be concerned with being regularly scrutinized, a factor that currently isn’t included in current consent forms.

“Policy does not exist for this,” McGrath said.

McGrath said other problems might include getting multiple agencies to use the same applications and getting congressional support for the reforms before the next president takes office.

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