GAO: DOD needs to improve security clearance timeliness, quality
- By Mary Mosquera
- Dec 23, 2008
The Defense Department needs to continue improving the speed and
quality of the process for issuing security clearances, according to a
draft Government Accountability Office report released Dec. 22.
the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Personnel
Management made significant progress in fiscal 2008 in reducing the
time required to evaluate security clearance applications, said Brenda
Farrell, director of defense capabilities and management at GAO. DOD
reached a decision on 80 percent of the security clearances in less
than 120 days, and the average was 87 days, Farrell said. However, many
of the applications were missing at least one type of documentation,
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004 requires agencies to make a determination on at least 90
percent of security clearance applications within 60 days by December
In fiscal 2008, DOD said it approved 630,000 initial or
renewal clearances for confidential, secret or top-secret status
requested by military, civilian and contractor personnel. GAO measured
the timeliness and quality of 448,255 security clearances in 2008 for
the Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense Industrial Security Clearance
OPM’s investigators conduct most of DOD’s clearance
investigations, and DOD adjudicators use their reports to make
eligibility decisions, GAO said. DOD’s security clearance program has
been on GAO’s high-risk list since 2005 because of delays and
incomplete documentation for first-time top-secret clearance
applications, according to the report. GAO will release a more detailed
report in 2009.
DOD does not share all of GAO’s concerns,
although James Clapper, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence,
said in his response to the report that GAO’s observations on the
quality and timeliness of the DOD personnel security program are fair.
As of October, DOD had improved its performance to an average of 76
days to process security clearances, Clapper said.
He added that
for positions that are critical to fill, DOD collects preliminary
information on applicants to evaluate their risk level. That approach
includes considering national guidelines for adjudication, reviewing
local security and personnel files, and checking FBI fingerprint files,
DOD also plans to enhance its Joint Personnel
Adjudication System by the end of 2009. The system will standardize the
documentation process throughout the department, Clapper said. DOD
developed applications that assess the quality of investigations and
the accuracy of documentation for adjudication, and the department will
deploy those tools next year, he said.
DOD will likely be unable
to meet the 2009 requirement of 60 days using the existing clearance
process, DOD and OPM officials said.
Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.