While security clearance with the Department of Defense (DoD) was a process that took 128 days two years ago, now the process has been shortened substantially enough to be removed from the list of troubled government programs.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) removed the “high risk” designation from the DoD Personnel Security Clearance Program after it processed most of its clearances in about 49 days in 2010. The high risk tag is given to programs believed to be subject to mismanagement, waste, fraud or abuse.
“High-level attention by DOD, OMB, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with consistent congressional oversight, has led to significant improvements in processing security clearances,” the GOA report stated.
Each year the government processes about 90,000 security clearances—primarily for defense-related positions.
A team consisting of the Defense Department, OMB, Office of Personnel Management and Intelligence officials had identified several causes for the backlog including the fact security forms had to be filled in by hand, duplicate questions and a lack of questions for important information.
“Many people were in a holding pattern because we couldn’t bring them on board,” said Beth McGrath, deputy chief management officer for the Defense Department. “Or we would hire them but we couldn’t have them do what we hired them to do.”
The questionnaire was revised and most of the system was put online, which helped the Office of Personnel Management’s role in processing applications. Also, employees with clearance seeking another job in the federal system can use their prior clearance.
The OPM intends to continue to monitor security clearances to “ensure timeliness improvements continue and quality is built into every step of the process using quantifiable and independently verifiable metrics,” according to the report.