Read on for a by-month breakdown of importance changes and updates in the security clearance process.


USD-I Report on Polygraph—In December 2011 the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence published, the DOD Polygraph Program Process and Compliance Study, and reported that for the period 1 May 2010 to 30 April 2011:

  • All nine DoD polygraph programs are in full compliance with DoD polygraph policy requirements.
  • All eleven DoD Central Adjudication Facilities (CAFs) are in full compliance with DoD policies and restrictions regarding the use of polygraph results.
  • No instances of adverse administrative actions or adverse personnel actions being taken against DoD-affiliated personnel whom either refused to take or failed to successfully complete a polygraph examination.
  • 41,057 examinations for personal security screening (PSS) were conducted, resulting in “No Significant Response” (NSR) in 94% of cases.
  • A very small percentage of Significant Response (SR)/No Opinion (NO) exams end without admissions made by the subject.

Although the report stated that only NSA, DIA and NGA currently require pre-employment polygraph screening; the report also stated that NRO conducted over 8,000 PSS exams, presumably for clearances for contractor personnel and/or for post-employment aperiodic exams.  NSA is the only DoD agency currently authorized to conduct Expanded Scope Screening (ESS) polygraph examinations.  DIA and NGA conduct Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph (CSP) exams.  The report recommend the DIA and NGA consider requesting authority to conduct ESS exams.


Federal Investigative Notice (FIN) 12-04The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that it had added a check of their Central Verification System (CVS) database as a standard component of the National Agency Check (NAC).


Security Executive Agent Directive 1The Director of National Intelligence as the Security Executive Agent under Executive Order 13467 issued its first directive, which “consolidates and summarizes the authorities and responsibilities assigned to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the role as the Security Executive Agent (SecEA) responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of effective, efficient, and uniform policies and procedures governing the conduct of investigations and adjudications for eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position.”


TSA Background Investigation Backlog—A news story reported that the “Transportation Security Administration confirmed Wednesday it had such a backlog of background security checks, airport employers were allowed to hire any employee needed.  TSA spokesman John Allen was quoted as saying, “At no time was security at risk, and all new employees will still undergo identity verification and be subject to watchlist matching.”  Not a very reassuring statement, since it implies that the checks are not being done prior to employment and access.  The problem seems reminiscent of the situation that occurred several years ago when OPM and TSA inadvertently failed to conduct criminal record checks as part of the background investigations on hundreds of TSA employees.

GAO Report on Background Investigations—The General Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the cost of “Background Investigations” (GAO-12-197) conducted by OPM. The first sentence of the report declared: “OPM’s reported costs to conduct background investigations increased by almost 79 percent, from about $602 million in fiscal year 2005 to almost $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2011 (in fiscal year 2011 dollars).”  The criticism appeared to be flawed because it measured the overall increase in the amount spent on background investigations, rather than the actual increase in the price of various investigative products offered by OPM. OPM increased their average weighted price of investigations about 4% per year during the past five years. This was a pretty remarkable feat considering that they significantly reduced turnaround time on their investigations during the same period.


DSS Stakeholders Report 2012—The Defense Security Service (DSS) released its “Stakeholder Report 2012,” detailing its recent achievements. The report included some statistical data for fiscal year 2011.

Federal Investigative Notice (FIN) 12-05OPM announced it “will implement a Social Security Number (SSN) search as a new National Agency Check (NAC) item. The SSN search will be conducted as a standard item on all investigations requested with the Standard Form (SF) 86 and will search records regarding the subject of the investigation only. The SSN search will be implemented on SF85P and SF85 investigations at a later date as the investigative questionnaires are renewed.”

DOD Central Adjudication Facility (CAF) Consolidation—On May 3, 2012, the “Deputy Secretary of Defense directed a complete consolidation of the functions, resources, and assets of the Army Central Clearance Facility, Department of the Navy CAF, Air Force CAF, Joint Staff CAF, Washington Headquarters (WHS) CAF, Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO), and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) into a single organization under the authority, direction and control of the Director of Administration and Management.”


Revision of OF306—A new version of the OF306 (Declaration for Federal Employment), dated: October 2011, replaced the previous version.  Only two noticeable changes were made to the form.  Question 9, which previously asked for criminal offenses that occurred within the past 10 years, was reduced to 7 years.  The form now states it can be used for contractor employment fitness determinations (a practice that has been in effect for several years).

NISPPAC Report—The National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee released the report of their March meeting that included statistics on contractor security clearance processing. Average end-to-end elapse time for initial Top Secret and all Secret/Confidential clearances was 63 days in March 2012—a significant and consistent improvement over the previous three quarters. Inventories of both initial clearance investigations and periodic reinvestigations at DISCO have remained the same compared to the same quarter of the previous year.  Previous meetings only included information about processing times for contractor clearances handled by DISCO and OPM.  This report also contained information about contractor clearance processing times for the Intelligence Community agencies and for the Department of Energy.

Maryland Security Clearance Tax Credit—The new law allows employers to claim a Maryland tax credit of up to $100,000 per year for security clearance administrative expenses, including processing application requests for clearances for employees; maintaining, upgrading, or installing computer systems required to obtain federal security clearances; and training employees to administer the application process.  This should include the cost of electronic fingerprint capture systems.  Employers can also claim an annual tax credit of 50% of the costs or $100,000 (whichever is less) for the construction or renovation of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

Senate Hearing on Security Clearance Reform—Testimony before the Senate subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia was presented by representatives of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), GAO, DOD, OPM, and DNI.  All reported that much progress had been made during the past several years in the areas of clearance processing times, reciprocity, and improving technology. DNI also reported establishing a reciprocity web page hosted on the Security Executive Agent Website that provides education and awareness, a checklist of exceptions, policy references, and examples of non-reciprocity issues.

New CI Polygraph Question—The Director of National Intelligence announced he was mandating that a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information be added to the counterintelligence polygraph used by all intelligence agencies that administer the examination (CIA, DIA, DOE, FBI, NGA, NRO, and NSA).


Guidance on Submitting Periodic Reinvestigation—It was announced that “Effective 1 August 2012, DISCO will only accept requests for periodic reinvestigations that are within 90 days of the investigation anniversary date. This is a change from the previous six-month (180 Day) timeframe. The reduced time frame is consistent with improved Industry security clearance investigation/adjudication times. Periodic Reinvestigation requests already initiated at DISCO will continue to be processed as appropriate.”

Eligibility Pending—Also effective August 1, 2012 DISCO began entering a status of “Eligibility Pending” when an interim clearance is “declined.”  DISCO states that Eligibility Pending “Indicates the investigation request has been received and reviewed for potentially posting an Interim Determination. When the requirements for an Interim determination have not been met, DISCO will post “Eligibility Pending” and defer adjudication until the completion of the requested investigation.

DOD IG Report: Assessment of Security Within the Department of Defense – Security Policy—The major finding in the DOD Inspector General’s report was that “that security policies often overlap, are fragmentary, or inconsistent. In addition, the sheer volume of security policies that are not coordinated or integrated makes it difficult for those at the field level to ensure consistent and comprehensive policy implementation. While compliance with existing security policies remains a central issue, consumers at the field level are often required to interpret outdated security policy guidance to make it relevant to existing organizational requirements.”  The report did not make any recommendations because it was felt that actions were already well underway to significantly consolidate and improve security policy under a Defense Security Enterprise and with the creation of the Defense Security Executive.


Tech America Reciprocity Survey—In a recently released survey Tech America reported on the continuing problems companies experience in clearance reciprocity between federal agencies, as well as clearance processing times.  The Department of Homeland Security was cited as the most problematic, followed by the non-DOD Intelligence Community agencies.  DOD appeared to be the least problematic.  More than half of the survey respondents reported improvement in clearance processing times, but an equal percentage reported processing times greater than 180 days.

DOD CAF Consolidation Begins—Operational consolidation of 7 of the 11 DOD Central Adjudication Facilities (CAFs) began in August.  The CAFs physically co-located in a new building on Fort Meade, MD in summer 2011.  CAF consolidation affects the Army, Navy, Air Force, Joint Chief of Staff, Washington Headquarters Services, Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office, and a part of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals.  The new agency is designated the DOD Consolidated Adjudication Facility (DODCAF) and composed of various divisions representing the former CAFs.  Consolidation is scheduled to be completed by January 2013.  It currently handles security clearance and sensitive national security position determinations. By September 2013 it will also become responsible for federal employment suitability/fitness determinations and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 credentialing (as known as Common Access Cards).


Mental Health Counseling—On 4 September 2012 the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) issued a memorandum, Subject: Department of Defense Guidance on Question 21, Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions.  In the memo the SECDEF clearly stated that “mental health counseling alone cannot form the basis of a denial of an interim security clearance. . . .”   Previously applicants were routinely denied interim clearances, when mental health counseling was disclosed on the SF86.

Federal Investigations Notice 12-07—OPM announced FY2013 prices charged to other Government agencies for OPM investigative products.  For the second consecutive year prices remained unchanged.

ODNI Annual Report to Congress—ODNI issued its second annual “Report on Security Clearance Determinations” to Congress.  More than 4.8 million people held security clearances for access to classified information in FY2011.  This reflects about a 3% increase over the previous fiscal year, but the increase might be attributable to improved data gathering rather than an actual increase. The most striking statistic was the 4,487 government and contractor clearances pending for over one year at CIA.  The data suggests that most of the delays occur during clearance adjudication rather than investigation. NSA had the highest clearance denial rate of 8.0%, followed by CIA with 5.3%, and NRO with 3.8%.


NISPPAC Report—The National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee released the report of their July meeting.  DISCO reported a 22% increasing in pending adjudications from Q1 FY2012 to April 2012 and a significant decrease in the case rejection rate since November 2011.


DSS Notice Regarding Secession Petitions—On 16 November 2012 Defense Security Service (DSS) posted at notice on their website under “User/System Alerts” stating that “DSS personnel had received questions from security personnel at cleared contractors about whether contractors should file adverse information reports pursuant to NISPOM paragraph 1-302 regarding cleared persons who sign petitions to allow a state to withdraw or secede from the United States. It also appears that erroneous statements have been made to the effect that DSS is directing contractors to treat the signing of such petitions as reportable adverse information.”  At the time DSS indicated they were reviewing the situation, then they removed the posting a couple of months later without explanation.  The petitions were posted at the White House’s “We the People” website.


High Impact Report Writing Returns—A number of federal background investigators commented at about on the return of what was previously known as the “High-Impact” style of report writing.  DSS used this writing style in their “Report of Investigation” successfully from the early 1990′s to 2004. It was lauded by many security clearance adjudicators as making reports easier and faster to read, because of the use of headings, sub-headings, captions, bullets, and lots of white space.  Once DSS transferred its investigative personnel and responsibility to OPM, investigators had to revert to the old way of writing—wall-to-wall text with only occasional breaks between paragraphs.

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William H. Henderson is a retired federal clearance investigator, President of Federal Clearance Assistance Service (FEDCAS), author of Security Clearance Manual, Issue Mitigation Handbook, and a regular contributor to and