Earlier this year Jason Miller, deputy director for management, OMB, and chair, Performance Accountability Council, emphasized that 2022 would be the most significant year for personnel security reform. Last quarter we saw progress across multiple milestones as Trusted Workforce 2.0 implementation guidance was released, Trusted Workforce 1.5 enrollment reached almost one half of the cleared population, and new federal investigative standards (FIS) were released. All of these milestones were reported on the recently released in the quarter three progress update from the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council. The FIS updates were particularly significant, representing a complete overhaul of the WWII-inspired framework and creating a risk-based approach to vetting.
Trusted Workforce 2.0 is the ‘whole of government’ approach to overhauling personnel security and vetting that began in 2018. As the program barrels toward its five year anniversary, many of the visions of reforming the security clearance and vetting process are becoming reality, particularly with the full enrollment of the entire cleared population into some form of Continuous Vetting (CV).
While transparent to candidates applying for the process – the updates to the investigative standards and adjudicative guidance will be seamless to candidates – they are significant to the overall picture of reforming the clearance process and improving mobility between positions across the federal government.
“This policy represents a significant step toward aligning adjudications by highlighting commonalities in the process across all personnel vetting domains—suitability, fitness, national security, and credentialing,” the PAC PMO update states.
Seamless Security Clearance Reform
The reforms of Trusted Workforce 2.0 thus far may not be making waves for clearance holders, but that’s by design. They key toward moving the process forward in an iterative versus sequential system was a major break in the way the government typically implements reform. In doing so, the key was to keep progress on key objectives – like improving clearance processing times, maintaining a steady state of pending cases, and ensuring reciprocity across agencies continues. And to ensure progress on those efforts, while transforming elements like investigative standards and adjudicative guidance.
Milestones like updating the Trusted Workforce 2.0 implementation guidance and getting CV status displayed in Scattered Castles may not be headline news to the average applicant, but they are important to the security professionals assisting with this process and for the mobility and career opportunity of the total clearance population.
Total Clearance Population
Speaking of the total clearance population, the number of in-access clearance holders remains a stat worth tracking. As we reported earlier this year, despite improvements in personnel security and the security clearance process, the number of in-access cleared professionals continues to go down. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) is processing more investigations, and improving processing times. That might mean a bigger overall cleared talent pool (as the numbers indicated), but it doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger number of people actually in access of classified information today. Whether it’s the great resignation, the graying of the workforce, or data clean-up, the figures display a shrinking number of people today who both have a clearance, and who are putting those security clearances to work.
Continuous Vetting Enrollment
The key milestone in the security clearance process is the enrollment in Continuous Vetting. The national security population went from just a few thousand enrolled in a CV solution to 100% in a CV solution within two years. While some feared CV may break reciprocity, DCSA has improved reciprocity over the past several years. As CV solutions roll out across government, officials hope transfer of trust will continue to grow in traction, and the movement from five vetting scenarios to three will streamline and simplify the security clearance, suitability, and reciprocity process.