A memo released in July by the Department of Air Force is creating some confusion about the status of security clearance processing. The memo indicated that due to end of fiscal year budget constraints, the Air Force was suspending all tiered background investigations and reinvestigations. It also noted, however, that “Background investigations required for processing military accessions and civilian new hires will not be impacted by this suspension.”
Chatter since that announcement has cautioned that the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency was suspending some investigation, but that’s not the case. The memo excludes any reference to industry and does, in fact, notes that required investigations will not be impacted by the policy change.
A DCSA official confirmed last week that the Air Force’s temporary suspension of some tiered investigations has no affect on industry clearance applicants. If you’re applying for a government contracting position and need to obtain a security clearance, expect the investigation to proceed as usual – DCSA has plenty of funding.
Clearance costs have previously been an issue, and were the major downfall of the Department of Defense when it initially ran the personnel security program. When it encountered its backlog (which far pre-dated the Office of Personnel Management’s backlog), it was largely due to funding shortfalls which left it sitting on cases. When it again took over the background investigation process, it made sure funding wouldn’t be its downfall again.
Based on the July memo, the Air Force was not so careful. Yet with the majority of individuals unaffected, and with continuous vetting rolling out by year’s end, the shift on periodic reinvestigations is an easy punt, and one with a clearly limited affect on personnel readiness.
Who pays for security clearances themselves is another common misconception. While contractors incur costs for running a personnel security program, it is the government who funds security clearance background investigations themselves.