Security clearance processing delays are the norm in the wake of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach, according to figures reported in the July 2015 meeting of the National Industrial Security Policy Program Committee (NISPPC) and published in their November minutes.
The average number of days to process the fastest 90 percent of applicants through steadily from the third quarter of FY 2014 through the second quarter of 2015. Processing times for Secret investigations increased to 119 days from an average of 72 days, and Top Secret investigations averaged 193 days, up from 133 days.
Top Secret Reinvestigations also continue to be a stumbling point, with processing times increasing from an average of 161 days to an average of 245 days.
All of the figures are above the established goals of 74 days for a Secret determination, 114 days for a Top Secret determination, and 195 days for a periodic reinvestigation.
Breaches, Insider Threats and OPM on the Hot Seat
Lisa Loss, deputy associate director of the Office of External Affairs, OPM, noted at the meeting that they were working to increase ‘contractor capacity’ even while dealing with the effects of the OPM breach, which included a 30-day shut down of the eQIP processing system. Secret clearance investigations were highlighted, and particularly the need for increased field work in those investigations when local police records are required. The Navy Yard shooting highlighted the issue with lack of cooperation from local law enforcement in providing records, as well as the importance of physically chasing down those records.
Earlier this month OPM announced it had sent the last of its notifications to personnel affected by the breach. Now many are calling for a new agency to take over the background investigation process, with speculation a new National Investigative Service may be stood up to do just that. And while a new agency may be better suited to take on this critical security mission, it’s clear today’s processing delays, and the greater concerns about the quality of investigations, will not be an easy fix.