IG: DHS security clearances need IT help

The department should consolidate some services, IG says

Senior officials should consolidate the databases used in the application process for security clearances at the Homeland Security Department, according to a new report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The IG said the examined the DHS personnel security program could be improved by consolidating the personnel security intake process, standardizing personnel security policies and establishing better relationships among agencies. The report issued June 3 makes 20 recommendations, including several about information technology.

For example, DHS job applicants who have been offered a position requiring a security clearance often have difficulty accessing the online customer-service system, states the report. The problems can result from technical or user issues, including forgotten passwords and failed access. Human-resource officers also report problems accessing the system.

A customer-service desk operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement handled 1,268 phone calls, 2,024 e-mail messages and 238 walk-in requests relating to customer service in the intake process in June 2008, the report states.

Rather than having separate agencies operate their own customer service, the IG recommended consolidating the services through the Under Secretary for Management, DHS Personnel Security Division.

Before 2008, agencies in DHS used individual databases for managing their security clearance casework, with some using legacy proprietary software and others using commercial off-the-shelf products.

The department has developed the Integrated Security Management System for coordinating its casework, and the IG recommended that components consolidate their security information in that system.

DHS officials agreed with the last recommendation and agreed in part with the customer-service consolidation.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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