If you are like most users of the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), you cringe at the very mention of the acronym. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, JPAS is one of the Department of Defense (DoD) systems we will have to use, as is. Things are improving, but first, a little history.
First, do not confuse or compare JPAS with Scattered Castles. JPAS is the “DoD system of record” for recording clearance eligibility determinations and access to classified information, up to and including Top Secret. Scattered Castles is a database used by the Intelligence Community to record eligibility and accesses to Sensitive Compartmented Information and other caveated programs.
JPAS was conceived decades ago with several goals in mind, including to standardize the adjudication process within DoD; provide an improved database and processes within the security manager realm of functions; and to allow better communication between the central adjudication facility (CAF) and the security personnel in the field who actually give cleared individuals access to classified information. It was also a first step in a process to a virtual consolidation of adjudicative functions of the DoD CAFs.
JPAS consisted of two separate and distinct sub-systems: Joint Adjudication Management System (JAMS), used at the CAF, and Joint Clearance and Access Verification System (JCAVS), used by security personnel in the field. CAF personnel entered information and clearance eligibility determinations into JAMS while field security personnel could view the CAF actions in JCAVS and perform the myriad of functions we currently do now – grant/withdraw access, visit requests, initiate investigations, in/out process, etc. The implementation plan for JPAS was sound, but problems beyond the wildest dreams of the visionaries who created it surfaced.
One of the functions of JAMS was to be a case management system for the CAFs to receive investigations, manage the status of the adjudicative case file, assign the case to an appropriate adjudicator and allow for a review of the determination by supervisors and senior CAF officials. Each CAF had their own case management system and there was never agreement on a single way of doing business, so the case management functions and business rules in JAMS were never fully established and the separate CAFs continued to fund and use their own systems. JAMS was used primarily to document clearance eligibility determinations and to notify security officials in the field of those determinations. Additionally, JCAVS was not designed for the thousands of users in the field who eventually requested and received accounts. There are currently 13,000+ cleared contracting companies who have JCAVS access, most of which have multiple user accounts. So changes were needed. In the mid 2000’s, the Army Central Clearance Facility (CCF) initiated development of the Case Adjudication Tracking System (CATS) to replace its own internal Case Management System (CMS) as it had been defunded. CATS soon had strong support, especially from the Office of Personnel Management Federal Investigative Services (OPM-FIS), as CATS would permit the electronic transfer of completed background investigations to CCF, thus saving OPM-FIS untold millions of dollars in printing requirements and delivery costs.
CATS also received strong support from DoD as the design could facilitate eAdjudication – the electronic adjudication of totally favorable investigations without human intervention. This was crucial to moving DoD toward the goal of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 which required “each adjudication agency make a determination on at least 90% of all applications for a personnel security clearance within an average of 60 days after the date of receipt of the completed application for a security clearance by an authorized investigative agency. Such 60-day average period shall include a period of no longer than 40 days to complete the investigative phase of the clearance review and a period of no longer than 20 days to complete the adjudicative phase.” CATS was implemented in CCF and soon became a desired system by all DoD CAFs.
Once the JAMS had been replaced by an improved system, the DoD leadership turned its attention to JCAVS. For the past several years, a working group of dedicated personnel from all affected areas have been working on a replacement for JCAVS. The new system is called the Joint Verification System (JVS) and will contain all of the current functionality. The hope is for design completion and implementation in 2014. So, for the time being, JCAVS is still the system of record for security personnel in the field and you need to learn the system, follow the rules and use it to its fullest. The best places to learn the system is the Defense Security Service Center for Development of Security Excellence; your local chapter of NCMS, the Society of Industrial Security Professionals; and mentoring with an experienced security officer. To paraphrase The Nature Boy, Rick Flair – whether you like it or you don’t like it, it’s the best thing going. And it’s going to be here for some time to come.
William R. Loveridge is a Facility Security Officer, a security consultant, a retired DoD personnel security adjudicator and a retired US Army Reserve Warrant Officer.