A recent Office of the Director of National Intelligence report revealed that 4.2 million individuals hold security clearances – over two million more people than had previously been speculated by a Government Accountability Office report.
The 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act required ODNI to begin reporting annually on the number and processing times of security clearances, largely as a step toward greater accountability in the security clearance process after the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 called for several reforms.
The report to congress reveals many previously unknown details about who holds security clearances today, although much uncertainty remains – including which type of workers actually hold some clearances. As of October 1, 2010, 2,166,679 government employees held confidential/secret security clearances and 666,008 held top secret clearances. 541,097 government contractors held confidential/secret security clearances and 524,990 held top secret clearances.
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Determining the number of clearances approved annually was a more difficult task for ODNI, who couldn’t determine the number for 2009. In addition, in 2009 and 2010 nearly 400,000 top secret security clearances were processed for individuals whose job category was not filled in – making it impossible to determine if those clearances were for government employees or contractors.
The numbers reveal that nearly as many government contractors hold the nation’s highest clearances as do government employees. It points to the government’s increased reliance on contractors post-9/11, the subject of a recent Senate hearing. Veterans leaving military service with high-level clearances are finding increasingly attractive opportunities within intelligence agencies and with government contractors, especially veterans with cyber skills and experience.
The ODNI report also revealed details about security clearance processing times, including the number of clearances that took longer than one year to adjudicate. According to the report, in FY 2010 OPM had 34,029 security clearance determinations taking greater than one year. Intelligence community agencies able to provide data on cases that were pending or closed after longer than a year most often reported “multiple issues” as the cause for most of the delays. Foreign influence and counterintelligence were the most common single issues causing a delay.
The Director of National Intelligence, as the President’s appointed Security Executive Agent, will now be required to report annually to congress on the number of individuals with clearances, as well as security clearance processing times.