After years of declining, the total number of individuals with security clearances has gone up slightly, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report on Security Clearance Determinations, a report mandated by congress and just made available thanks to a FOIA request made by the Federation of American Scientists. In FY 2019 there was a 4.2% increase in the number of security clearances, for a total number of 4.2 million individuals with eligibility to access classified information. That’s 169,122 more security clearances than October of 2018.
ODNI further divides the number of security clearances based on those eligible, and those ‘in access.’ There are 2.9 million individuals with active security clearances at the time of the report, and 1.3 million individuals who are ‘eligible’ – that means they have a security clearance, but aren’t currently using it. That figure represents individuals who have left cleared positions but still maintain eligibility because their clearances haven’t expired or remained unused for more than two years. It included DoD personnel, including service members who may have eligibility but not be actively serving in a position that requires it.
The biggest increase came in security clearance approvals. The report was unable to separate between initial and periodic reinvestigations, but the combined approvals were 964,138. That’s a 44% increase over FY 2018.
Government Transparency – or Not
Inexplicably, the government chose to redact out most of the information required in the report, including the number of investigations that had been pending longer than a year, and information about clearance denials and revocations. Previous reports have simply sanitized the specific agency information included within the report, but in this instance, the government chose to black Sharpie it for maximum impact, least information clarity.
It’s also worth noting that both the FY 2017 and FY 2019 reports note similar ‘challenges’ caused by a competitive marketplace for background investigators and polygraphers. COVID-19 has certainly posed retention challenges for some positions, but based on the feedback on ClearanceJobsBlog, the largest online forum for background investigators, the issue is getting enough work from the government – not a lack of interested candidates. If background investigator or polygrapher retention is an issue, ODNI, call me – I have some qualified candidates willing to take the jobs!