Over the last few years, agencies of the federal government have made tremendous progress streamlining the security clearance process. The time to complete each of the three phases of the process — application, investigation, and adjudication — are down.

A major reason for the improvement in screening and approval is the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This law requires government agencies tasked with granting security clearances to workers complete nine of ten clearance requests within an average of two months — specifically 40 days for the background investigation and 20 days for the adjudication of the application. However, according to a new article in AOL Government by the vice presidents of two defense contractors, there is more that can be done to improve the clearance process.

In the article, Growson Edwards, Senior Vice President of Business Development at MicroPact, and Paul Wilkinson, Vice President of Strategic Market Development at Salient Federal Solutions, argue that rather than focusing on any individual phase of the security clearance process, the most important improvements require taking a full lifecycle perspective. More specifically, the authors propose the development and deployment of a, in their words, “standard government-wide tool that brings that technologies used, and data gathered, during the three phases of a background investigation together in one complete case management system.”

Such a system would solve two current problems with the current security clearance process. First, currently there exists no tool to collate and organize all the data gathered during the three phases and which is used universally across government agencies. Similar systems have been deployed to great effect by other government agencies, such as the Department of Justice’s Justice Security Tracking and Adjudication System (JSTARS). Second, the lack of a unified system for security clearances increases the cost of investigation, reduces transparency in the process, and makes reporting and reciprocity more difficult.

With luck, if such a system were deployed in the future, it would help streamline the often-painful security clearance process and allow cleared jobs to be more accessible to more potential applicants.

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Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.