Top secret security clearances require three times the amount of items to be checked, when compared to secret or basic background investigations. This is according to the Federal Investigative Service’s Fiscal Year 2012 report. The security clearance investigation process takes advantage of a growing number of automated tools to help speed efforts, however.
Automation and background investigator workload are under the microscope as reforms to the security clearance process are considered. At the same time, the volume of information that’s a part of the clearance process has increased by 58 percent for top secret clearances, when compared with 2005 figures. The number of checks required for secret or basic background checks has increased by 22 percent over the same period.
FIS separates automated (hands-off) and manual (manpower) information collections. In FY 2012 FIS conducted 23 million individual item checks, adding up to 2,600 checks per minute. Checks include education and residence verification, and employment history, among other things. Some investigations require only automated checks and can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Others, including top secret security clearance determinations, require hands-on manpower which can take anything from hours to days. For example, a National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) is almost completely automated, while a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) includes more checks requiring manpower than automated checks.
FIS is expanding its suite of automated systems as it looks to meet guidelines for speeding up the security clearance process. FIS refers to its automated suite as EPIC s (E for e-QIP, P for PIPS, I for Imaging, and C for CVS)), but it consists of a broader range of personnel security systems. These online systems have had a major impact on timeliness, including the ability to process investigations as well as return investigation updates or notifications of completion back to customers.