For years the number of active federal security clearances was a matter of speculation. New reporting requirements enable us to see trends in how many security clearances have been granted over the past several years.
While news reports focus on cleared contractors and lapses in personnel security and self-reporting potential issues, the number of federal employees with secret or public trust clearances is four-times greater than the number of cleared contractors. In 2012, there were nearly three million federal employees with secret and public trust clearances, and 500,000 contractors.
The gap shrinks significantly for cleared professionals with top secret security clearances. Nearly 500,000 contractors possess top secret security clearances and over 800,000 government employees do.
In contrast to popular opinion, there has not been a drastic rise in the number of security clearances issued since 9/11. The number of cleared contractors has remained at a near constant over the past five years, and the number of cleared federal employees has risen slowly.
In October, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence directed every agency to validate every clearance issued. This increased scrutiny, partnered with annual reporting requirements, ensures that speculation and security clearances won’t be going hand-in-hand in the future.