If you’re a recruiter, hiring manager, Facility Security Officer (FSO) or recent clearance applicant, you are likely well aware of security clearance processing delays. With the time to process a top secret security clearance averaging near 500 days, however, the situation is quickly becoming one for upper management. Need to hire on a crunch? Recently bring on a top-caliber professional to work on a project? The C-suite had best not expect that un-cleared professional to hit the ground running in today’s market.
Whether you’re a recruiter or FSO, you need to be armed with the right talking points the next time your management inquires about the delays. Here are the highlights you (and they) need to know.
1. know the Current Clearance Processing Numbers
It’s hard to ignore the facts – the fastest 90 percent of Secret and Confidential security clearances take 272 days to process, and Top Secret clearances take 458 days, on average. And remember – that’s the fastest 90 percent. You may have outliers taking upwards of 2 years. If you’re a cleared recruiter or FSO, it’s a good idea to keep these processing times at the ready – print a chart of the times, and keep it at your desk. If your management wonders why hiring already cleared talent is crucial, let them know they may have to wait two years for a final adjudication for a non-cleared applicant.
2. Interim Clearances will Never again take a matter of days to complete.
There was a time when you could move an interim security clearance through the process in a week or two. Now the PSMO-I must obtain the results of the Advanced National Agency Check and fingerprint review before granting an interim clearances. That means you will never again be able to turn around an interim clearance in a week. Three months is the average, and a month is a best-case scenario.
3. The intelligence community is experiencing the worse breaches…ever.
To say the current intelligence community workforce is a bit strained is an understatement. When we thought we could consider Snowden a memory, we got Winner. FSOs are implementing new insider threat training program requirements as they try to keep applicants waiting 2+ years for a clearance determination informed. You need to be more wary of the new applicants you hire, even as it’s harder than ever to hire them.
“Never before in my career have I seen the losses we’re suffering now,” said Dan Payne, Defense Security Service director, speaking at the recent NCMS annual conference.
4. The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) is Still New.
The agency with the joyous responsibility of dealing with the 690,000 case background investigation backlog is just 9 months old. It inherited a mess, and quite frankly it’s still figuring out what to do with it. The current master plan consists of fixing 57 pain points, and hiring new investigators to address the backlog. That in itself probably won’t cut through the cases. It will take major reform. That could consist of the Department of Defense bringing its investigations in-house, or other overhauls of the security clearance process.
5. It will probably get worse before it gets better.
We’ve been lamenting current security clearance processing delays for more than two years – we have yet to see the situation actually improve. NBIB and Congress are both pushing their own policy and legislative improvements. NBIB recently identified 57 pain points with the security clearance process. Congress is waxing philosophical about the impact of slow processing times. The NBIB is updating the SF86, the eQIP, and adding background investigators. In the long term, any of these things may improve processing times. In the short term, they’ll likely only add to it.
The most important thing you can do when it comes to conveying this information is be clear with your management where things are. The good news is that you have both numbers, and policy changes to clarify why things are the way they are. Take the above intel to your bosses and they won’t wonder why it takes so long to process a clearance; they’ll know how.