OMB: Agencies will reduce security clearance delays

Agencies have decreased the time it takes to conduct security clearances for hiring federal employees and contractors as a result of using more investigators and adjudicators and increased accountability for performance, the Office of Management and Budget said in a report released today.

Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management, said he anticipated the government would meet its goal of 60 days for clearances by December 2009. In 2005, security clearances took an average of 265 days, he said.

The report updates proposals made in April by the Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team, he said. In addition to OMB, the team includes the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Defense Department and Office of Personnel Management.

The team has developed plans and a timeline to modernize the security clearance process that includes a more automated system to decrease the work done manually, integrate additional data sources and policy reforms to increase its accountability and efficiency, he said.

The team has established a Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council designed to provide a governance structure for the clearance reform effort and drive its implementation across agencies, Johnson said. The council plans to discuss issues related to advancing reciprocity, in which agencies accept clearance determinations from other agencies, and when to require re-investigations of federal employees in select public-trust positions, he said.

The team developed a strategy to use existing federal systems and applications and modify them to create a framework that would allow for faster implementation, align information technology modernization plans with the transformed process, and use components to reduce duplication, he said.

An executive order signed in June also changes some ground rules and standards agencies use to perform background investigations, the report said.

All of the reforms would be operational across the government by the end of calendar 2010, with plans to begin phased implementation in 2009, Johnson said.

The report said the anticipated milestones in 2009 include:
• Implementing an online platform to increase accessibility to intelligence community records to expand reciprocity.
• Deploying a revised Enhanced Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system to be more interactive and collect more data earlier in the process.
• Beginning to field automated record checks of government and commercial databases and finalize implementation strategy.
• Phasing in using electronic adjudication for determination cases that have no issues.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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