As security clearance reform continues to make headlines and legislators and policy makers work together to bring about the kinds of major changes it will take to improve the process, focus is often on the nuts and bolts of the background investigation itself. It’s a fact: the lengthiest and most complex part of the personnel security process is the investigation. It’s the only piece that sometimes requires actual leg work as investigators hunt down details and interview personal subjects.

But with the focus on security clearance processing delays, there is another major piece of the puzzle that is keeping many applicants from getting to work – stalled adjudications.

The Department of Defense Central Adjudication Facility (CAF) provided an update on its performance at a recent National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee (NISPPAC) meeting. The current backlog of pending adjudications is 52,508. The average timeline for adjudication is 37 days for an initial investigation and 113 days for a periodic reinvestigation. DoD CAF officials noted the focus is on initial investigations, because DoD officials have emphasized that security clearances don’t expire, and those with ‘overdue’ PRs are still able to remain at work while adjudication is pending.

The 37 day figure is only for the fastest 90% of applicants, so just like background investigation timelines, there are outliers who regularly visit the ClearanceJobs Blog and report far lengthier security clearance adjudication timelines – sometimes as long as a year or more with a completing investigation pending adjudication.

The adjudication timelines may be even more problematic for industry, which reports it is less often funneled into eAdjudication, one of the reform efforts designed to speed up adjudication (note: eAdjudication is hardly a new reform effort; it was implemented in 2008 and designed to take the ‘human’ out of adjudication for about 25% of cases which were so squeaky clean they didn’t need a human to review the complete lack of disqualifying information of some Secret (Tier 3) clearance investigations). A representative at the NISPPAC meeting noted that just 1-2% of industry applicants are currently being funneled into eAdjudication, meaning industry applicants are largely kept completely from the processing improvements of eAdjudication – and are chucked into the adjudication backlog.

What’s the Status of the Investigations Backlog?

As the DoD CAF faces its backlog issues, the National Background Investigations Bureau is beginning to make progress on its own. The number of pending background investigations is at 541,000 – a 25% reduction in the past year.

“And we’re continuing to drop,” noted Charles Phalen, NBIB director, at the NISPPAC meeting. Only 256,000 of the pending investigations are initial investigations, and 103,000 of those individuals are at work on an interim security clearance. Phalen noted that means that between 43% and 60% aren’t able to work on an interim, and that is a focus of NBIB to continue improving clearance processing times and reducing the size of the backlog to a steady state.

Within the 256,000 figure, 80,000 are Tier 5 investigations.

542,000 down in the inventory – we’re continuing to drop.

80,000 active tier 5


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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.