Security clearance processing times have maintained a steady downward trend since the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and then the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) started backlog mitigation measures and business improvement efforts. But shortly after DCSA busted the backlog and was moving onto technological advancements and Trusted Workforce 2.0 overhauls, COVID-19 hit the scene. Even despite the issues with adjusting in-person interviews and verifications, the security workforce continued to make improvements, and clearance processing times kept pace.


Top Secret clearance processing times saw a slight uptick in Fiscal Year Q4 of 2021, thanks to an increase in adjudication times, increasing to 181 for a DoD/Industry Top Secret security clearance. Investigation times actually dipped slightly, but adjudication times jumped by nearly 20 days. That uptick may be caused by complex COVID cases which were punted forward finally being adjudicated – and requiring additional time to address. Secret clearance processing times for DoD/Industry continued a stable to downward trend at 112 days. Secret adjudication timelines didn’t see the same increase as TS investigations – which makes sense because eAdjudication or automated checks are largely responsible for Secret determinations. The extra responsibility of a Top Secret clearance investigation also requires extra diligence on the part of the adjudicator. And COVID issues which may have held up an adjudication (like the inability to find a source or reference or verify a detail), may be a part of the adjudication delays increasing clearance processing times.

The slight increases in Top Secret processing times for industry come as overall clearance processing times are under benchmark, and the backlog of pending investigations sits at a steady state of 176,800.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer