Department of Defense Industry security clearance processing times saw a slight uptick in the second quarter of FY 2021, according to updates given by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency at today’s National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee (NISPPAC) meeting. Current Top Secret clearance processing times are 159 days, and Secret clearance processing times are 132 days. These numbers only represent industry applicants – processing times are slightly faster for all DCSA cases, which included DoD civilians and service members.
Government officials noted that missions were moving forward despite COVID-19. Professionals at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and DCSA continue to work either remotely or in staggered shifts, and background investigators were largely promote pre-pandemic. Upticks in security clearance processing times have occurred, due to increases in seasonal employment, and COVID-19 related delays. Just because background investigators remain at work doesn’t mean the individuals they need to gather information from are, and that impacts security clearance processing times.
The caseload at DCSA has also experienced a slight uptick, to 205,000 pending cases. That increased caseload is likely a mix of increased hiring and seasonable onboarding as well as COVID-19 and IT hiccups, noted Marrianna Martineau, Acting Assistant Director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.
Despite the slight increase in clearance processing times, DCSA continues to experience improvements in interim clearance determinations. Of the 62,000 background investigations requests VROC has processed in 2021, 92% had an interim security clearance determination made in 5-7 business days, Martineau noted.
The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals noted they processed their highest number of Statement of Reasons (SORs) in 2020 since 2016. They’re also working to send SORs directly to industry employees and applying better tracking to issued SORs. The office has moved forward with telework procedures, and is also actively working to ensure new workarounds for instances where they’re not able to access facilities. They recently began using the Defense Communications System (DCS) when COVID-19 travel or facilities were an issue, noted DOHA Director Peregrine Russel-Hunter. That’s allowed them to keep investigations moving forward despite facility closures and access issues.