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news and resources for acquiring, maintaining, and retaining government-issued security clearances


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Renewed Focus on Legality of Polygraph Exams

The legality and usefulness of polygraph examinations in security clearance investigations again is in focus after a recent McClatchy news article revealing alleged polygraph-test abuses at the Department of Defense’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Posted by The Editors on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:10AM | Comments (0)

Feds Ease Mental Health Disclosure Reqs.

According to a report in the Navy Times, the federal government will ease a requirement to disclose on security clearance processing papers certain prior mental health counseling.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 28, 2012 at 05:06PM | Comments (0)

Bus Driver Awaiting Clearance Renewal

A former CIA computer systems worker drives a school bus as he awaits renewal of an expired DoD security clearance.

Progress reportedly has been made in speeding clearance processing, but significant delays remain.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 31, 2011 at 10:24AM | Comments (0)

Senate Bill Protects Whistleblower Clearances

S. 372, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009, passed the U.S. Senate on December 10. The bill calls for the establishment of procedures to ensure that government whistleblowers can challenge any adverse action taken with regard to their security clearances. A Board is established to review and rectify such instances of retribution.

For details, click the link above and search the text of the bill for “clearance.”

Posted by The Editors on Dec 13, 2010 at 01:38PM | Comments (0)

Faulty Clearance Procedures at Ft. Hood

Walter Pincus reports in today’s Washington Post that a panel set up to review circumstances that led to the Fort Hood shootings found that inadequate security investigations contributed to the tragedy.

Military and Department of Defense civilian security investigations were “incomplete, too limited in scope, or not conducted at all” and that investigations for Secret-level clearances, in the case of shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, were “unsatisfactory.”

Posted by The Editors on Jan 19, 2010 at 05:28PM | Comments (0)

US Senator Introduces Clearance Reform Bill

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who heads a Senate subcommittee on government management and the federal workforce, has introduced S. 2834, a bill to establish the Security Clearance and Suitability Performance Accountability Council.

The Council would oversee clearance reform efforts and, within 90 days of its creation, issue a “strategic plan” identifying problems in the security clearance process and efforts thus far to correct them.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 01, 2010 at 01:13PM | Comments (0)

Obama Nixes Indefinite Classification

In announcing a series of measures this week to ease declassification of secret government information, President Obama opined that “no information may remain classified indefinitely.”

The statement may have implications for people who are denied information about a security clearance application or revocation citing “national security” grounds.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 01, 2010 at 12:30PM | Comments (0)

Handling of Unclassified Information

Secrecy News reported today that the White House is expected to soon release policy clarifications relating to the marking and handling of unclassified information.

The government often stamps information “LES” (Law Enforcement Sensitive), “SBU” (Sensitive But Unclassified), “FOUO” (For Official Use Only), “CUI” (Controlled Unclassified Information), or other designations leaving it unclear exactly how such information is to be handled. The confusion has caused otherwise well-intentioned federal employees some trouble, such as in an incident we reported in 2006.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:01PM | Comments (0)

Senate Bill Proposes New Reporting, Oversight Requirements

Two U.S. Senators reportedly have introduced a bill, the Security Clearance Modernization and Reporting Act of 2009. The Senators are chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on Government Management.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 07, 2009 at 11:23PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Screening Faulted in Ft. Hood Shooting

A blogger on points out that a question on the official application form for a federal security clearance asking about membership in any “militia” groups is inadequate to identify individuals such as Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, who held a Secret clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 23, 2009 at 12:04AM | Comments (0)

Scenarios for Clearance Disqualification

Today, the Washington Post’s career counselor shared some insights on specific personal scenarios, including certain criminal and personal conduct, that might complicate acquiring a security clearance.

The counselor draws upon clearance adjudication outcomes posted to a Department of Defense (DoD) website, which highlights again the vast, seldom discussed, and unresolved disparity in security clearance transparency between federal agencies. DoD is the only federal agency to public disclose information on security clearance determinations brought before its Adjudications Board.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 14, 2009 at 12:16PM | Comments (1)

Teleworking Speeds Clearance Processing

By allowing investigators to work from home, the time necessary to process new security clearances has decreased from one year in 2001 to 37 days now, says Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry.

It reportedly now takes 72 days to process a new Top Secret clearance, though in some cases paperwork for initial TS clearances is incomplete. A Government Accountability Office official says quality security clearance processing can improve reciprocity — that is, one entity’s acceptance of another entity’s clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 07, 2009 at 11:32PM | Comments (0)

Former FBI Official Criticizes FBI Oversight

A former counterintelligence and counterterrorism manager at the FBI has criticized Bureau procedures for issuing security clearances and investigating wrong-doing by FBI employees.

John Cole says “no agency should have control over their own security programs, for security clearance,” and he questions the FBI Inspector’s General impartiality in investigating wrong-doing.

Read more here and scroll down to “Calling for accountability…”

Posted by The Editors on Oct 07, 2009 at 11:22PM | Comments (0)

Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Security Clearance Reforms

On September 15, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management held a hearing on security clearance reform at which the key federal officials on this issue testified. View a video and read transcripts here.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 19, 2009 at 08:40PM | Comments (0)

CIA Clearance Investigator Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Reports

A CIA investigator has reportedly pleaded guilty to falsifying reports involving security clearances.

The writer attributes the incident to pressure to complete security clearance investigations more quickly. last reported on this issue here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:55PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearance Delays at State

An August 21 National Journal Online article discussed delays in processing security clearances for State Department interns.

The article also reported on alleged biases in security clearance determinations.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:17PM | Comments (0)

NSA Recruits, Clears High School Interns

As further evidence of the US Government’s growing interest in recruiting early for careers in intelligence, the National Security Agency reportedly
has processed security clearances for some Georgia teens to work as NSA interns.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 09:49PM | Comments (0)

Arab-Americans Reassured on Security Clearances

At a White House meeting on July 23, Arab-American leaders, in a two-hour, high-level briefing spanning many sensitive issues, reportedly were reassured it would become easier for members of the Arab-American community to attain federal security clearances.

New details about security clearance procedures for intelligence agency hires were laid out, including lifting the automatic dismissal of applicants with dual nationality and or foreign relatives, allowing non-minority applicants to be tracked using ‘heritage’ options on application forms…and scholarships for national security majors at Wayne State University in Michigan.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 15, 2009 at 02:49PM | Comments (0)

DHS Execs Resist Security Clearance Improvements

Despite an Inspector’s General report that security clearance processes are “complex and convoluted,” executives at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are resisting recommendations of changes aimed to centralize how security clearances are processed, according to a June 15 article in Federal Computer Week.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 08, 2009 at 05:11PM | Comments (0)

Lengthy Vetting Deterring Some From Govt Service

The New York Times reported on July 14 that a “more demanding” security clearance process under the Obama Administration is making it more difficult to fill political appointments. Secretary of State Clinton, probably recalling her own vetting process for her job, said financial and personal reporting requirements were so onerous they are “ridiculous” and that “several people” had declined appointments.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 24, 2009 at 12:11PM | Comments (0)

State Clearance Procedures Faulted in Spy Case

An online pundit questions the thoroughness of Department of State security clearance procedures and security clearance reform efforts after the arrest of a former Department employee on charges of spying for Cuba.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 19, 2009 at 05:18PM | Comments (0)

State Spy Case May Have Clearance Implications

The arrest of a former State Department intelligence analyst on charges of spying for Cuba may have implications for the security clearance process.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 05, 2009 at 11:47PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Investigators Busted for False Reports

The Washington Post reported on April 9 that at least half a dozen security clearance investigators for the federal government have been busted for falsifying reports recommending job applicants for security clearances. The investigators had rushed their reports in order to get more of them done and earn more money.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 10, 2009 at 11:12PM | Comments (0)

Feds Aim to Automate Clearance Approvals

Federal officials are considering a variety of ways to automate steps in the security clearance process to expedite the issuance and renewal of clearances, according to this March 11 news report on

Posted by The Editors on Apr 01, 2009 at 10:02PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearance Reform to Remain a Priority

President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reportedly said during confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate that security clearance reform would remain an OPM priority under his leadership.

…he promised comprehensive reviews of proposals to improve the security clearance and hiring processes.

Posted by The Editors on Mar 28, 2009 at 05:40PM | Comments (0)

Those Without Clearances Valued, Too (corrected link)

We often post articles which describe just how valuable it has become as a job-seeker to have a security clearance. Well, for a change, here is one that mentions the exact opposite — that those without security clearances are valued, too.

He would have undermined the insularity of the intelligence world by asking [Intelligence Community] members to meet with outside experts whose insights ‘may be worth more than security clearances.’

The Director of National Intelligence also said as much when he signed, in July 2007, an order encouraging Intel Community outreach to non-cleared experts outside government.

Posted by The Editors on Mar 12, 2009 at 07:08AM | Comments (0)

Stimulus Bill Said to Contain Clearance Provisions

The Washington Post recently railed against sections of the Stimulus bill under consideration in Congress that would extend protections to whistleblowers at Intelligence Community agencies and provide for federal judicial review of executive branch decisions to revoke a security clearance.

The paper argued that such measures would infringe upon executive branch authority over security clearance determinations and sensitive intelligence matters.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 15, 2009 at 09:09PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearances Could Become Less Important for Locals

If a recently-introduced bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is passed, state and local law enforcement officials and first-responders could find that having a security clearance is less important for their jobs.

The bill reportedly would require the Department of Homeland Security to release declassified versions of threat bulletins to state and local officials without such clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 15, 2009 at 08:59PM | Comments (0)

New Hill Bill Pushes Clearance Accountability

U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo of California has introduced the Security Clearance Oversight and Accountability Act, H.R. 638, January 22, 2009.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 06, 2009 at 02:26PM | Comments (0)

Update on Security Clearance Reform

As the Bush Administration comes to an end, Executive branch officials reportedly are hopeful that ongoing reforms of the security clearance process will remain a priority.

An official in the Office of the Director for National Intelligence says “sustained leadership attention” will be necessary.

Meantime, according to a recent government report, on average, the Intelligence Community is processing new clearances within revised deadlines, with new clearances taking 102 days and renewed clearances 135 days. It still takes other agencies much longer, though there has been improvement.

Reforms in 2009 include improvements to clearance verification processes and to reciprocity among agencies.

The most recent update did not include mention of steps, if any, being taken to ensure that clearance processing is more transparent and that agencies are being held accountable for unfair treatment in clearance adjudication. Much of the attention on clearance reforms remains focused on speed, not quality.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 01, 2009 at 07:52AM | Comments (0)

New GAO Report on Clearance Timeliness and Completeness

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report to Congress on the timeliness and completeness of Department of Defense security clearance investigations.

Since the link above may be temporary, the number of the report is GAO-09-261R, DOD Personnel Clearances, and it can be found at

Posted by The Editors on Dec 22, 2008 at 11:37PM | Comments (0)

New Report Notes Clearance Improvements and Future Changes

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reportedly has issued a new report which says that the government is on track to meet a deadline for speeding clearance processing. The report also lists a number of goals for further security clearance reforms intended to be accomplished in 2009.

The OMB report follows a reportedly less flattering report on security clearance reform released in early December by a Congressional oversight committee.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 21, 2008 at 10:06PM | Comments (0)

ODNI Encourages Analytical Outreach

In July, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) issued an important directive. The directive said that all Intelligence Community analysts “should leverage outside expertise as part of their work” to “explore ideas and alternative perspectives, gain new insights, generate new knowledge, or obtain new information.”

The directive is important because security officials and security clearance adjudicators have previously been known to suspend or revoke clearances of analysts who interacted with some outside, non-governmental groups such as those identified in the directive. In their defense, clearance-holders accused of wrong-doing because of such activity may now draw upon the authority allowed under this new directive.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 13, 2008 at 10:44PM | Comments (0)

USG Eases Requirements for Some Clearances

The Director for National Intelligence (DNI) has approved issuing the most sensitive, SCI clearances to US citizens some of whose immediate family members may be foreign nationals. The goal is to attract and recruit into intelligence and other positions within government persons with critical language abilities.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 28, 2008 at 03:17PM | Comments (0)

Measured Improvement Cited in Clearance Delays

U.S. Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, member a subcommittee involved in streamlining and modernizing the security clearance process says measured improvements have been made. The number of pending security clearance investigations is way down, but too many federal agencies still do not handle clearance applications electronically.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 17, 2008 at 04:42PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearances and the Presidential Transition

In order for the incoming President to better focus on economic and national security matters, the White House has jump-started processing security clearances for some 100 potential senior advisors to Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, the Wall Street Journal reported on October 10.

The White House has been working since the summer to faciliate the security clearances, with a newly-created working group focused on the issue. Some Bush administration national security advisors reportedly were still awaiting clearances when the September 11, 2001, attacks occurred.

The Washington Post also ran the story.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 17, 2008 at 09:57AM | Comments (0)

ODNI Embraces Online Networking

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) reportedly will launch on September 22 what is being called a social networking website serving the Intelligence Community and requiring a security clearance to access.

Unlike venues such as Facebook, however, “A-Space” will facilitate the sharing of ideas on terrorist threats rather than serve mostly as a social forum. is pleased to have been the first online networking site catering to the security clearance community when it was launched two years ago August and is thrilled to see the idea catching on in government circles.

News of “A-Space” was also available here.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 07, 2008 at 08:31PM | Comments (0)

AP: DoD to Increase Polygraph Use

The Associated Press reported recently that the Department of Defense’s Defense Intelligence Agency will step up its use of polygraph exams to screen new and current employees, while others maintain that polygraphs are an unreliable fix to a broken security clearance process. One problem: personnel are rarely allowed an opportunity to challenge a polygraph exam’s findings.

The AP story was also available here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 28, 2008 at 12:18PM | Comments (0)

Security Industry Conference to Include Session on Clearance Process Reform

An indication of increased public attention to the need for reforms in the security clearance process, an upcoming security industry conference in Atlanta will include a first-ever session. titled, “Transforming the U.S. Government Security Clearance Process.”

Another session will cover Office of Personnel Management background investigations.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 26, 2008 at 10:42PM | Comments (0)

ODNI to Assist Arab-Americans, Others with Clearance Process

Ronald Sanders, Associate Director of National Intelligence for Human Capital, reportedly plans to help Arab, Chinese, and other ethnic Americans “manage the security clearance process” in order to bring into the Intelligence Community more people with a native understanding of foreign cultures and languages.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 20, 2008 at 02:03PM | Comments (0)

Bringing Newly-Hired Personnel Aboard Quicker

To avoid newly-hired personnel from changing their minds about taking Federal jobs because of lengthy security clearance processing delays, some Federal agencies reportedly have created interim job centers where employees begin work without their full clearances.

While intelligence agencies still are blessed with tens of thousands of applications each year, the lengthy security clearance process associated with bringing in new hires is still a major obstacle. As a result, agencies have established interim job centers to allow employees awaiting security clearance to perform unclassified work until their background investigation is complete….

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2008 at 05:03PM | Comments (2)

GAO Official Testifies on Reform Efforts

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its most recent testimony to Congress on multi-agency security clearance reform efforts. The report number is GAO-08-1050T, to help locate the report on the GAO’s website if the link above expires. A copy was also available here.

At least cne Democratic House member expressed disappointment about reform efforts.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 31, 2008 at 04:33PM | Comments (0)

Hill Bill Creates Security Clearance Ombudsman

The appointment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) of an ombudsman to handle and report on complaints involving security clearance investigations is one improvement included in H.R. 5959, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2009, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 16.

The bill now awaits passage of and reconciliation with its Senate companion, S. 2996.

Though creation of an ombudsman is an important positive development, the House bill would limit his or her jurisdiction only to matters involving applications for new clearances, and not include reinvestigations or readjudications of existing clearances or adverse actions taken against holders of current clearances. Additional procedural protections are needed for these individuals as well.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2008 at 05:40PM | Comments (0)

GAO Updates Hill on Clearance Reform

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has gotten back to a Senate committee with answers to questions posed during a recent hearing on security clearance reform. Read the GAO’s supplemental information here. The report’s ID# is GAO-08-965R.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 20, 2008 at 09:37PM | Comments (0)

Executive Order Designates Officials to Manage Clearance Reforms

The White House has issued a new Executive Order putting into place new officials and entities to better manage security clearance reform.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2008 at 01:57PM | Comments (0)

Guidance for Soldiers on Completing Clearance Application

In a recent story, a newspaper for Army service members advised when it is best to say “no” on the SF-86 federal security clearance application question regarding mental health counseling. The Department of Defense had recently amended its policy about issuing new or renewed clearances to service members known to have sought mental health counseling.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 30, 2008 at 03:55PM | Comments (0)

DDNI on Next Steps in Clearance Reform

Intelligence Community Inspectors General conferred at the Central Intelligence Agency on May 8. The Deputy Director for National Intelligence (DDNI) spoke about security clearance reform.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 08, 2008 at 12:33AM | Comments (0)

Senators Call Clearance Reform Report "Skimpy"

At a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing last week, Senators said the eagerly anticipated, nine-page report to the President on security clearance reform, though appreciated, was nonetheless “skimpy.”

Posted by The Editors on May 29, 2008 at 08:51AM | Comments (0)

GAO Report on Clearance Process Stresses Quality Not Speed

In testimony Thursday before a House subcommittee, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) official delivered her agency’s most recent assessment of coordinated government efforts to reform the security clearance process. She said that those efforts have focused too much on reducing the time necessary to issue new or renewed clearanced and too little on ensuring the quality of the clearance process. She also said that commiting funds specifically for security clearance reforms could ensure better Congressional oversight. wishes to point out, however, that many Congressional panels recently, as we have previously noted, have taken up the issue of security clearance reform, and it is unclear whether additional funding intended specifically to boost Congressional interest is necessary. Those with opinions are invited to share them here.

Posted by The Editors on May 24, 2008 at 10:03AM | Comments (1)

Industry Holds Seminar on Clearance Reforms

An industry group on May 7 held a half-day seminar near Washington on security clearance reform, timed to the release of a federal report to President Bush on security clearance reform efforts. View the seminar agenda and bios of speakers here. A summary and assessment of the federal report from is forthcoming.

Posted by The Editors on May 15, 2008 at 11:10AM | Comments (0)

Details on Industry Seminar on Clearances

Lexis/Nexis co-sponsored a half-day seminar near Washington last week on security clearance reform. In a press statement, the company, which is marketing its screening and identity verification solutions, identified several issues on the seminar agenda, including:

  • the electronic collection and validation of information early in the clearance process;
  • the deployment of automated processes to reduce manual work and accelerate clearances;
  • the deployment of modern analytic technologies; and
  • continuous ongoing evaluations leveraging automated database checks.

Posted by The Editors on May 15, 2008 at 11:00AM | Comments (0)

Security Breach Highlights Clearance Flaws

The case of a Lebanese national who acquired US citizenship through a fake marriage highlights flaws in security clearance processing at the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, where she worked for more than a decade, according to an article in Federal Computer Week.

Posted by The Editors on May 08, 2008 at 01:33PM | Comments (0)

Former CIA Official Heads Panel Reviewing Clearances

John Brennan, former Deputy Director of the CIA, reportedly is head of the Intelligence and Security Alliance (INSA), a consortium of companies with Intelligence Community contracts that includes security clearance reform among its priorities.

Posted by The Editors on May 05, 2008 at 07:34PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Delays Strain IC Workforce

The chief human capital officer at the National Intelligence Directorate said in late March that delays in processing security clearances are making it difficult to recruit enough new workers into the Intelligence Community (IC). Procedures are now in place to allow new recruits to begin work on unclassified projects until their full clearances are approved.

Posted by The Editors on May 05, 2008 at 07:24PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Process Needs Oversight, Transformation

In an article on the security clearance process published this week by Federal Computer Week, U.S. Representative Rush Holt added his name to the list of Members of Congress supporting security clearance reform. He said the system “lacks sufficient oversight.” Meanwhile, a White House official called for “transforming the system.”

Posted by The Editors on May 05, 2008 at 07:11PM | Comments (0)

DoD Changes Clearance Policy on Mental Health

The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced that, effective April 18, military personnel do not need to disclose mental health counseling issues unless the treatment was court-ordered or the result of a violent incident.

Posted by The Editors on May 02, 2008 at 11:29AM | Comments (1)

Reciprocity Remains Key Clearance Concern

A news article in the Federal Times discussed how reciprocity remains a key concern with regard to improving security clearance processes, particularly at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 26, 2008 at 07:41PM | Comments (0)

Survey of Contractors' Concerns on Clearances

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) recently completed a survey of 100 contractors to identify concerns regarding security clearances. A common complaint: While the government’s need for cleared private-sector labor has grown, the government’s ability to process clearances has not kept pace.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 26, 2008 at 07:17PM | Comments (0)

House Hearing on DoD Clearances

A House subcommittee in February held a hearing on faults in security clearance processing at the Department of Defense (DoD). The subcommittee chairwoman’s opening remarks can be read here. Testimony was taken from a handful of government officials and industry experts, copies of which can be found here (search for “clearance” to locate the February 13 hearing details).

Posted by The Editors on Apr 13, 2008 at 01:55PM | Comments (0)

Senator Concerned About Clearance Process

At a Senate hearing in late February, Senator Daniel Akaka expressed concern about the security clearance process, adding his name to the growing list of Federal legislators informed about and interested in the issue.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 13, 2008 at 01:41PM | Comments (0)

Another Federal Panel Considering Clearance Reforms

In testimony before a House subcommittee in mid-March, Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director Wayne Murphy said that among issues being considered by an Interagency Threat Assessment Coordinating Group (ITACG) is how to equip in a more timely manner state and local law enforcement officers with security clearances. Wayne testimony is available here, on the subcommittee’s website.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 13, 2008 at 01:24PM | Comments (0)

House Panel Calls for Clearance Process Investigation

In March, leaders of a key House panel called upon the Government Accountability Office to evaulate security clearance processes in the Intelligence Community, including the Director of National Intelligence’s pilot program on security clearance reform.

The move is especially significant because GAO reports thus far on security clearance processing have been limited mostly to the Office of Personnel Management and Department of Defense, while sensitive agencies in the Intelligence Community (i.e. CIA, FBI, NSA) have enjoyed relative independence and little oversight of their security clearance procedures and policies.

(Hat tip: Secrecy News)

Posted by The Editors on Apr 13, 2008 at 12:02AM | Comments (0)

Congressman Speaks Out on Clearance Reforms

Congressman J. Randy Forbes of Virginia issued this statement at a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness at which security clearance reforms were discussed. Forbes criticized the speed and quality of clearance processsing and suggested that additional funding would lead to improvements.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 12, 2008 at 11:56PM | Comments (0)

Another House Panel Seeks Answers on Clearances

Further demonstrating the increased interest in Congress about problems affecting the security clearance process, yet another House panel, an Intelligence subcommittee, on February 27, held a hearing on the issue. Read the chairwoman’s opening statement here. No other documents pertaining to the hearing were found on the committee’s website.

Read media coverage of the hearing here.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:51PM | Comments (0)

Financial Distress and Military Clearances

On April 1, a House Judiciary subcommittee discussed the problem of members of the U.S. armed forces losing their security clearances due to financial distress, often the result of popular, high interest, payday loans. A video webcast and copies of testimony are available on the subcommittee’s website.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:38PM | Comments (0)

Industry Official Testifies on Clearance Reform

On April 9, an industry representative testified before a House subcommittee about security clearance reform efforts. He said an industry group called the Security Clearance Reform Coalition has 17 specific recommendations to improve security clearance processing. Find a summary of his remarks here. Full copies of witness testimony can be found on the subcommittee’s website.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:24PM | Comments (0)

Industry Conference on Clearance Reform

On May 7, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), which participates in the Security Clearance Reform Coalition, will host a half-day conference on security clearance reform near Washington, DC. Click here for more info.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:19PM | Comments (0)

House Panel Seeks Answers on Clearance Reform

On April 2, Congressman Jerry Lewis of California questioned Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Linda Springer about security clearance reforms during a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. OPM processes most lower-level federal security clearances and participates in a multi-agency federal group charged with reforming the security clearance process.

Unfortunately, no transcript of the hearing is available on the subcommittee’s website, but Congressional Quarterly (CQ) Transcriptions covered the session and a transcript should be available through your local library.

Click “Read More” (below) for highlights:

Posted by The Editors on Apr 11, 2008 at 11:53AM | Comments (0)

GAO Testimony on Clearance Reform

The GAO has issued a report summarizing recent testimony before Congress on the status of security clearance reforms and Department of Defense clearance procedures, in particular.

There is not much new here, but what’s written is a helpful reminder of some of the ongoing challenges and initial attempts at reform, such as a multi-agency federal coordinating body, whose initial report is due to the President on April 30.

The GAO’s testimony highlighted that security clearance delays continue to add to costs and risks, as industry personnel often cannot begin work promptly or work on classified matters with outdated clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 10, 2008 at 11:44AM | Comments (0)

GAO Addresses Hill Questions on Clearances

The Government Accountability Office has issued a letter
responding to several questions asked during a recent hearing before a congressional subcommittee. Among the letter’s highlights:

  • The GAO emphasizes the need to build more quality and quality monitoring into the clearance process, relating to the thoroughness of clearance investigations;
  • Calls for a long-term commitment, across five areas, to improve the security clearance process;
  • Government agency statistics on clearance processing timeliness are unreliable;
  • The Government needs, but does not currently have, a database that records statistics on the reciprocity of clearances across Federal agencies.

Posted by The Editors on Mar 29, 2008 at 10:41AM | Comments (0)

House Hearing on DoD Clearance Processing

On February 13, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness held a hearing on Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance processing. Testifying were officials from DoD, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Personnel Management, and Lockheed Martin Corporation. An audio transcript of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 23, 2008 at 04:12PM | Comments (0)

Companies Work Around Costly Clearance Delays

A February 15 article (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal reports some of the steps companies are taking to avoid the long wait times required for employees to acquire security clearances necessary for some government and military contracting work. Some large companies are acquiring smaller ones who already employee persons with security clearance. Expensive government programs are being delayed while employees sit idle or are assigned other duties.

According to a government report, in the first quarter of 2008, it took 118 days to process 80 percent of security clearances, compared to 106 days in the previous year.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 23, 2008 at 04:00PM | Comments (0)

News Article Identifies Clearance Wait Times

A February 19 article in the Washington Post addressing progress in speeding processing for new and renewed security clearances identifies how long it’s currently taking to complete some investigations.

Most clearances currently require 118 days, but according to a 2004 law passed by Congress, must require as few as 74 days by 2009.

Defense contractors wait, on average, 151 days for a new security clearance and 274 days for renewal of a top-secret clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 23, 2008 at 03:52PM | Comments (0)

Analysis: Clearance Reform Efforts

United Press International has published a short analysis of President Bush’s recent memo requiring federal agencies to produce a plan for security clearance reform within 90 days.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 12, 2008 at 11:15PM | Comments (0)

Congress to Hear Testimony on Clearance Reforms

According to a February 7 Washington Post article (registration required), Congressional panels are to hear testimony this coming week on security clearance reform, a topic recently addressed in a memo from President Bush. The Post article adds details about who was behind the release of the memo and why it was issued.

For a list of witnesses scheduled to testify, click here.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 09, 2008 at 11:04PM | Comments (0)

Bush Memo Puts Deadline to Clearance Reforms

On February 5, President Bush issued a memorandum to federal agencies requiring that they present to him, by April 30, their plans for reforms of the security clearance process to increase speed and efficiency.

According to testimony given to Congress in May, security clearances continue to be processed at a pace much slower than mandated under current reform guidelines.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 07, 2008 at 12:49PM | Comments (0)

Article Highlights Clearance Reforms at State

An article in the January 16 edition of The Washington Independent reviews instances of alleged poor security clearance procedures at the Department of State.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 31, 2008 at 10:55AM | Comments (0)

New TSA Procedures for Screener Clearances

According to a Knight Ridder article (subscription required) published on October 23, 2007, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is now requiring that new screeners successfully complete a criminal background check and a terrorist database search prior to receiving a federal security clearance necessary for employment.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 29, 2008 at 05:07PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Protections for Whistle-Blowers Advance; Courts Would be Given Role in Clearance Decisions

The U.S. Senate has approved the Federal Employees Protection of Disclosures Act, legislation protecting the security clearance of Federal employees who reveal government waste, fraud, and abuse.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 29, 2008 at 04:40PM | Comments (0)

DNI Ponders Closer Scrutiny of IC Staff

In an interview published in the January 21 edition of the New Yorker_, summarized herewright and in this column on page B5 of the January 14 Wall Street Journal, Mike McConnell is reported to have suggested that closer monitoring of Intelligence Community employees’ activities could shorten background checks.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 15, 2008 at 10:21AM | Comments (0)

New Report on Polygraph Use at DOE

A new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report examines the use of the polygraph (lie detector) test by the Department of Energy (DOE). CRS discusses DOE use of the exam for both counterintelligence and employment screening purposes and reviews scientific evidence in support of and against the use of polygraphs.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:57AM | Comments (0)

GAO: Approach Clearance Reform More Broadly

A closer look at the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) latest report on security clearance reform is especially notable for recommending ways to quantify reforms beyond simply measuring wait-times for clearance approvals. GAO says that greater confidence in the “quality” of the clearance process is necessary, in part to “achieve fuller reciprocity” – that is, mutual acceptance of clearances across federal agencies. This is welcome news to those who support a more accountable and transparent security clearance process.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 24, 2007 at 12:33PM | Comments (0)

Major Defense/IT Contractors See Little Improvement in Clearance Processing

At least two major defense/IT contractors to the Federal government feel that there has been no significant improvement in security clearance processing times, according to a November 12 report in Washington Technology.

‘I don’t think that it’s easing up much,’ said a representative of government contractor SRA, ‘but I don’t think it’s any worse. It’s something that we live with and work with.’

Another contractor, CSC says it is “not experiencing major delays in the clearance pipeline because the company understands the process and the time involved.”

Posted by The Editors on Dec 20, 2007 at 04:51PM | Comments (1)

Feds to Present New Data on Clearance Delays

In testimony scheduled to be heard by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence this week but delayed by other House business, Kathy Dillaman, Associate Director of the Office of Personnel Maanagement’s Federal Investigative Services Divison, planned to release new figures on delays in processing federal security clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 20, 2007 at 03:21PM | Comments (0)

GAO Identifies Ways to Shorten Clearance Process

In a fresh report to the House Select Committee on Intelligence, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends additional steps to consider that may short wait-times for initial and renewed security clearances. Among its recommendations: first determining whether a clearance is necessary for one to do his/her job and, if so, what level of clearance is sufficient. The report notes that Top Secret clearances require ten times as much time and money to process as Confidential- or Secret-level clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 20, 2007 at 03:06PM | Comments (0)

Whistleblower Bill Extends Protections for Cleared Feds

The U.S. Senate has passed S. 274, the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosure Act, which first reported on here in July.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 20, 2007 at 01:00PM | Comments (0)

DOE Institutes Clearance Drug Tests

Following up on a story first posted last April, the Department of Energy (DOE) will expand drug testing of federal and contract employees with clearances, according to an October 22 article in Inside Energy.

In a September 14 memorandum to senior DOE officials, [DOE Secretary] Bodman required drug tests when employees apply for security clearances, as well as random tests and for-cause checks once employees have received their clearances. In addition, he prohibited DOE from issuing security clearances to applicants whom the department determines have used illegal drugs during the previous year.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 09, 2007 at 11:21AM | Comments (0)

Speeding Clearances Remains ODNI Priority

Shortening the amount of time it takes to process new security clearances remains a priority for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), according to an article in Government Executive. One quick fix is for newly-hired employees to be assigned unclassified work until clearance investigations are completed.

The new plan also seeks to reform the hiring and security clearance process by allowing job candidates to work temporary unclassified jobs while they’re waiting for clearances and investigations to be completed. “That way, we’re not losing candidates due to the extensive processing time,” one intelligence official said.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 27, 2007 at 10:47PM | Comments (0)

DHS Entity Boosts Clearance Processing Staff

Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), reportedly has boosted staff to process more efficiently security clearances for its employees.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 01:36PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Rules Prevent More Diverse Workforce

An industry professional tells Federal Computer Week that security clearance restrictions hinder the government’s ability to grow a more ethnically-diverse workforce.

“Right now, getting someone cleared who is a first-generation American is really hard. If you are going to improve the representation of various employees, they need to change security clearance requirements.”

This month, the National Academic of Sciences said that a “significant and steady infusion of foreign nationals” was necessary to maintain U.S. scientific research and development talent.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 01:06PM | Comments (0)

Metrics on Clearance Processing Released

The minutes of the May meeting of the National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee in Washington reveal useful metrics of progress made in security clearance processing. The minutes also restate mandated federal guidelines for clearance processing times.

Other sections of the minutes address reciprocity issues affecting a cleared employees ability to efficiently move across agencies.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:30PM | Comments (0)

OPM Progress on Speeding Clearances Debated

A recent article in the Federal Times reveals disputes among government and industry experts over progress the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has made in reducing processing times for security clearances. OPM claims delays will be virtually eliminated by 2009 while industry experts assert that OPM is neglecting to include in its calculations thousands of clearance reinvestigations that remain incomplete.

“We’re finally seeing the results of years’ worth of work,” said Kathy Dillaman, associate director of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services.

“OPM is painting a rosier picture than reality demands,” said Trey Hodgkins, vice president for federal government programs at the Information Technology Association of America. OPM’s statistics on the length of investigations are meaningless if they do not include reinvestigation figures, he said. OPM is boosting its results by finishing only the easy cases.

Apparently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which audited security clearance processing for Congress, agrees notable progress has been made and has asked Congress to request that GAO follow up.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:19PM | Comments (0)

Too Few Techies Are Clearable

According to a June article in National Defense, there is concern in academic and government circles that universities are graduating too few scientists and engineers who have the qualifications necessary to acquire federal security clearances, putting at risk our nation’s technological advantage in sectors such as national defense.

“There is a long-term downward trend in defense-relevant science and engineering degrees at all levels awarded to personnel who could qualify for the security clearances,” says William S. Rees, Jr., deputy undersecretary of defense for laboratories and basic sciences.

A new Department of Defense program awaiting approval by Congress would fund university faculty who pursue military-related research, with participants cleared at the Secret level.

(If the above link to the article does not work, try here.)

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:33AM | Comments (0)

Drug Use Was No Barrier to Clearance at DOE

In statistics recently reported to Congress by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Department acknowledged issuing thousands of security clearances despite indications of past drug use, including 95 where such use occurred within the last 12 months. Read more here. first reported on the story last April.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:57PM | Comments (0)

Feds Speed Clearances for State and Local LEOs

A September article in National Defense cites a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report that said that state and local law enforcement officers (LEOs) are receiving federal security clearances more expeditiously but that a lack of trust still exists. most recently reported on delay or denial of security clearances for state and local officials here and here.

The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (H.R. 1), which President Bush signed into law in August, contained a provision allowing for expedited processing of security clearance for individuals assigned to new intelligence fusion centers staffed jointly by federal, state, and local officials.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:43PM | Comments (0)

Risk Management Urged to Speed Clearances

In a recent editorial, an executive at LexisNexis argues that employing risk management tactics could speed security clearance processing.

The security clearance backlog can be addressed immediately by leveraging commercial technology, analytics and data in four pivotal areas:

Electronic verification of information on applicants’ Standard Form 86;

Risk segmentation and pre-investigation of applicants for more effective allocation of investigative resources;

Case management software to enhance the monitoring and visibility of investigations;

A persistent reinvestigation process that can be triggered by automatically flagging high-risk or derogatory information contained in public and government records.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:32PM | Comments (0)

New Law Protects Cleared Military Personnel from Debt

The Military Lending Act, which reportedly took effect October 1, protects military personnel who hold security clearances from losing those clearances as a result of taking on debt from high-interest loans. The law limits interest charged on such loans. first noted last June that military personnel who had accumulated too much debt were losing their clearances. Under Adjudication Guidelines, security clearance-granting authorities may question whether persons with unreasonable amounts of debt are more susceptible to bribes and more likely to compromise classified information, and may deny clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:06PM | Comments (0)

Contractor Expands Role in DHS Clearance Investigations

In October, the security firm Kroll announced it won a contract to expand its role in conducting security clearance investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Kroll already performs such a function for DHS’s Transportation Security Agency, where clearance processing is facing long delays, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Kroll’s exact role in security clearance processing was not specified. Outsourcing clearance investigations is part of efforts to expedite the clearance process. Other contractors have won similar DHS work.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:22PM | Comments (0)

Contractors to Process Clearances at NGA

A section of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 2082) would allow the Secretary of Defense to permit the Director of the National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to use contractor personnel in investigations and adjudications of security clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 09:31PM | Comments (0)

Feds Turn to E-Mail to Speed Clearances

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reportedly will try electronic transfer as a means to speed security clearance processing. In a pilot program to begin before October 1, OPM will electronically submit completed investigations to the Army security office for adjudication. The measure is expected to cut up to two weeks off security clearance processing time, helping facilitate meeting deadlines set by Congress.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 22, 2007 at 08:42AM | Comments (0)

Additional Funds for Security Investigations

The Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies which conduct security clearance investigations often rely upon Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field offices in some 60 U.S. cities to conduct parts of those investigations in local communities where security clearance applicants report to have lived or worked.

A U.S. House of Representatives budget bill reportedly calls for the FBI to receive millions of dollars to “boost field resources dedicated to security investigations.” The additional funds, and the new positions they will create, may help to expedite security clearance investigations.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 21, 2007 at 02:19PM | Comments (1)

Minorities Disadvantaged in Clearance Process?

The new director of the National Clandestine Service says that the current security clearance process makes it more difficult to hire minorities into the US Intelligence Community.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 17, 2007 at 11:37PM | Comments (0)

Feds Appeal to Private Sector on Clearance Reform

The US Government has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to industry soliciting solutions to help speed security clearance processing.

According to Federal Computer Week:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget are seeking ways to meet Congress’ December 2009 deadline for improving the security clearance process.

The RFI reportedly asks vendors to submit strategies for completing 90 percent of security clearance investigations in 40 days and adjudications in 20 days.

Read more here or here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:51PM | Comments (1)

National Journal Article on Clearance Process Woes

The August 10, 2007, edition of National Journal contains a lengthy assessment of the troubles plaguing the security clearance process. Access the article here or here. Leave a comment about the article below or on’s ClearanceWatch Message Board.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:49AM | Comments (0)

FBI Loosens Policy on Drug Use

To ease the hiring of special agents and analysts to fill remaining job vacancies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly has amended its policies, for security clearance and polygraph purposes, relating to the use of marijuana.

The change may already or soon apply to other federal agencies as well.

The FBI is only the latest law enforcement agency to amend its policies on past marijuana use. Increasing numbers of departments are reporting problems with applicants being excluded over past pot-smoking, and [are] loosening their standards. Even the drug czar’s office understands…

“Increasingly, the goal for the screening of security clearance applicants is whether you are a current drug user, rather than whether you used in the past,” said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “It’s not whether you have smoked pot four times or 16 times 20 years ago. It’s about whether you smoked last week and lied about it.”

See also this USA Today report.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 05, 2007 at 07:33AM | Comments (1)

DoD Defends Request to Lift Restrictions

After criticism in Congress and the media of its request to lift restrictions on granting security clearances to persons who served prison time, use drugs, or suffer from mental illness, the Department of Defense (DoD) is pressing ahead with its case that the restrictions are too prohibitive. Read here for more.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:05AM | Comments (0)

Blogger Proposes Two-Strike Clearance Rule

In reference to a Defense Department request of Congress for greater flexibility in granting security clearance to individuals with criminal records and other less than ideal personal histories, a blogger recommends allowing federal agencies discretion to grant probationary clearances to persons who may have lost or been denied one previously.

The blogger also address expected wait-times for new clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:45AM | Comments (0)

Senate Cmte Opposes DoD Clearance Relief

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has announced its opposition to repealing a law prohibiting the Department of Defense from issuing security clearances to former convicts who have served a year or more in jail, individuals who are mentally incompetent, are drug addicts, or have been dishonorably discharged from the military. We first reported the issue here, upon introduction of a House bill seeking the repeal.

The controversy was reported, July 10, in The Hill, where statements by various Senators suggested interest in intervening in security clearance issues.

(Hat tip to Secrecy News)

Posted by The Editors on Jul 11, 2007 at 02:34PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Delays Favor Contractors

In this blog discussion about staffing problems at the Department of Homeland Security, a participant comments that delays in clearance processing make those already possessing high-level clearances more valuable as contractors and less likely to advance as quickly were they to remain in government.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 11, 2007 at 10:39AM | Comments (0)

Whistleblower Amendments Would Cover Cleared Employees

A bill (S.274) under consideration in the U.S. Senate would extend whistleblower protections to selected federal workers holding security clearances, at an estimated annual cost of $2 million, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.

…there generally are between 400 and 500 whistleblower
cases per year. S. 274 would expand the definition of protected whistleblowing, [and] create new
avenues of appeal for employees who lose their security clearances in retaliation for

Posted by The Editors on Jul 06, 2007 at 05:17PM | Comments (0)

Future DoD Investigations May Exclude Mental Health

Secretary of Defense Gates
reportedly supports a Department of Defense (DoD) Task Force on Mental Health recommendation that applicants for security clearance no longer be asked whether they ever have sought help for a mental health issue.

Too many DOD employees do not seek mental health care specifically because they fear losing their security clearances, Gates said.

The story is also available here and a similar story is here.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2007 at 09:17PM | Comments (0)

WH Clearance Renewed Despite Breach

Critics of the Bush White House say a senior aide should not have had his security clearance renewed while suspected of having leaked classified information.

A more detailed account of alleged careless White House security procedures can be found here, as well as in a letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2007 at 09:02PM | Comments (0)

Small Cos. Shut Out of Cleared Work

A recent article in the Maryland Gazette discussed obstacles small construction and other companies face to winning government contracts requiring security clearances. The process of obtaining clearance is reviewed, including issues that might delay granting clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2007 at 08:37PM | Comments (0)

DoD Weighs Dropping Mental Health Query

The Department of Defense (DoD) reportedly is considering omitting from security clearance questionaires queries relating to mental health after finding that service members avoid needed counseling because they believe that getting it – and acknowledging it – could cost them their clearance as well as do other harm to their careers.

However, DoD notes that, last year, less than .05 percent of some 800,000 people investigated for clearances were rejected on the sole issue of their mental health profile.

The story is also accessible here or here.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 18, 2007 at 04:33PM | Comments (0)

Bill Seeks to Broaden DoD Clearance Authority

H.R. 2615
, a bill introduced by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) seeks to revoke U.S. law prohibiting the Department of Defense from granting or renewing the security clearance of any individual who: 1) has been found guilt of a crime and served more than one year in prison, 2) unlawfully uses a controlled substance, 3) suffers from mental incompetence, or 4) was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military. The existing law allows for a waiver based upon mitigating circumstances.

The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, reported on the bill here.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 13, 2007 at 09:40AM | Comments (2)

CIA Pressed to Curtail Reliance on Contractors

While it does not discuss security clearances directly, an article in the June 11 Washington Post discusses the reasons for and impact of the Intelligence Community’s over-reliance on hiring contractors. CIA has put in place measures to curtail the revolving door of retirees returning as contractors.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 11, 2007 at 04:43PM | Comments (0)

DIA Head: Adjudication Impedes Recruitment

In a recent interview published in Signal magazine, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) says that adjudicating security clearances is a roadblock to effective recruitment but not one which cannot be overcome.

Posted by The Editors on May 30, 2007 at 09:27PM | Comments (1)

DSS Pleads for Funds

The Defense Security Service (DSS), the Department of Defense agency responsible for processing security clearances, reportedly needs millions in new money to continue operations.

The U.S. Government must have new security clearance processing procedures in place by 2009 in order to comply with a new law. A federal committee is examining ways to facilitate electonic transmission of information necessary to complete clearance processing more expeditiously.

Posted by The Editors on May 24, 2007 at 10:20PM | Comments (0)

Broken DoD Clearance Procedures

A U.S. Congressman has written to the U.S. Secretary of Defense expressing concern about the slow pace of reforms at the Defense Security Service (DSS), responsible for processing DoD contractor clearances. Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) says DoD has not reported to Congress, as required, budget and investigation information needed to help alleviate difficulties at DSS.

Posted by The Editors on May 18, 2007 at 12:15PM | Comments (0)

Senate Hearing on Security Clearance Reform

On May 17, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee heard testimony from U.S. Government experts on the progress of reforms affecting security clearance processing. Much of the testimony focused on the Department of Defense, where antiquated computer systems are said responsible for delays in completing clearance investigations.

Read news reports about the hearing here and here.

Access transcripts of witness testimony here.

Posted by The Editors on May 18, 2007 at 12:09PM | Comments (0)

Fresh GAO Report Highlights Clearance Delays

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concludes that an inexperienced investigative workforce not fully utilizing technology mostly accounts for continued delays in processing of clearances for industry personnel at the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD clearance-processing rates fall far below government guidelines and the rates of other government agencies and the Office of Personnel Management, in particular.

GAO reports that “statistics that [the Office of Management and Budget] and OPM report to Congress on the timeliness of the clearance process do not portray the full length of time it takes many applicants to receive a clearance,” hindering congressional oversight of efforts to address delays.

DoD has issued clearances despite missing information — in some cases, pertaining to unexplained affluence or potential foreign influence.

Report highlights are here, and the full report may be accessed here.

Posted by The Editors on May 17, 2007 at 04:50PM | Comments (0)

Protection Sought for IC Whistle-Blowers

Two former Federal Bureau of Investigation employees appealed to Congress not to exclude employees of Intelligence Community (IC) agencies from new protections for Federal whistle-blowers.

National security whistle-blowers often find themselves sidelined, without a security clearance and without a job, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report.

Posted by The Editors on May 16, 2007 at 12:43AM | Comments (0)

Clearance a Ticket to Private Sector

This student blogs about how government has become a means to acquire clearance and then lucrative employment in the private sector.

Posted by The Editors on May 13, 2007 at 05:48AM | Comments (0)

DNI Plan to Ease Clearance Reviews for Some

Following up on a story first reported on here in April, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) plans to ease barriers to entry for first- and second-generation Americans with critical foreign language skills by taking on additional risk in granting clearances.

How will it happen? Agencies will have to lower their threshold for risk. When a security officer goes out to interview an applicant’s family members, many experts argue that it can’t be an automatic black ball if that applicant’s cousin once worked for a foreign intelligence service…. At the very least, more questions should be asked.

There’s always a fear that “you might let in the wrong person. That’s just a risk you’re going to have to take.”

Posted by The Editors on May 08, 2007 at 02:15PM | Comments (0)

DS Officer Wins Award for Innovation

A veteran Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) officer has won an award for his innovative solutions to streamline background investigations and security clearance processes at the Department, according to a Department announcement.

Some of his achievements: A new program employing family members of Foreign Service Officers abroad to conduct background investigations, and a reduction in the time required to process new clearances from as much as two years to as little as 77 days.

Posted by The Editors on May 08, 2007 at 02:04PM | Comments (0)

Amendments Proposed to Clarify Adverse Actions

The Federal Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday published in the Federal Register proposed amendments to “clarify adverse action rules regarding employee coverage.” The amendments follow Federal court rulings, first highlighted by in January, granting probationary employees certain procedural and appeal rights. The issue is important to holders of security clearances because Federal agencies can and do exploit probationary periods to suspend or revoke clearances without challenge.

Posted by The Editors on May 02, 2007 at 02:35AM | Comments (0)

Recruitment and Retention in the IC

An article published Tuesday, May 1, by Government Executive discusses some of the human resource challenges facing Intelligence Community (IC) managers, including the need for security clearance reforms.

Today’s competitive job market is defined not by the institution, but by the free agent. The [IC] has become a place where the millennials learn spying tradecraft, obtain a coveted top-level security clearance and then bolt to contractors for heftier paychecks….[I]t could become the career path of choice – break into the private sector via the government.

Posted by The Editors on May 02, 2007 at 02:16AM | Comments (0)

New Case Management System to Speed Clearances Unveiled

In a press release, a U.S. Government contractor responsible for investigating new applications for security clearances explains the workings of Catalyst, a new case management system it says will help to eliminate current clearance backlogs.

The release is also accessible here.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:45PM | Comments (0)

Blog: Clearance Delays Stifle IC Innovation

A blogger with first-hand experience identifies some of the bureaucratic challenges that threaten innovation in the U.S. Intelligence Community. He points out, for instance, that because new clearances can take so long to approve, mid-career professionals experienced in more efficient and effective private-sector ways of getting things done, often tend not to enter government service. Among other changes, he suggests declassifying some work would help.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 22, 2007 at 02:47PM | Comments (0)

Drug Use Issues Prompt Clearance Reforms at DOE

An internal Department of Energy (DOE) investigation, prompted by a recent case where a DOE employee with a drug problem was caught with classified material in her home, has identified nearly three dozen cases of clearances issued despite recent drug use. The DOE plans “sweeping changes…in the issuance of clearances,” according to a Time magazine report. Recent drug use will be cause for termination of a security clearance application.

The Danger Room blog also covered the story.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 21, 2007 at 11:32AM | Comments (0)

IC to Ease Entry for Those With Language, Cultural Fluency

An April 5 report in the Baltimore Sun_, also carried elsewherenation, discusses the Intelligence Community’s interest in hiring more first- and second-generation Americans with critical skills in language and cultural fluency. At the National Security Agency, some applicants are brought onboard and given unclassified work until clearances are approved.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 14, 2007 at 12:32PM | Comments (0)

DNI Releases 100-Day Plan for IC Improvement

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released the text of a “100-Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration” in the Intelligence Community. Planned reforms focus on expediting security clearance processing and issuing clearance to first-generation Americans with valuable foreign language skills. reported on the Plan here. first reported on the anticipated reforms here, after a speech by DNI Mike McConnell.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 12, 2007 at 10:54AM | Comments (0)

Results of Intel Community Employee Survey

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence has released the results of the 2007 survey of job satisfaction of Intelligence Community employees. A news report about the survey says that reforms in security clearance procedures include facilitating clearance for first- or second-generation Americans skilled in foreign languages.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 09, 2007 at 10:50AM | Comments (0)

Veto Looms for Legislation Protecting Cleared Personnel at Security Agencies

Margins of support in the U.S. Congress for legislation recently approved by the House that would better protect the security clearances of some Intelligence Community employees who disclose wrong-doing reportedly may be sufficent to override a threatened White House veto.’s latest Posting on the issue appeared here.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 08, 2007 at 12:14PM | Comments (0)

New DNI Stresses Clearance Reform

Mike McConnell, the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) reportedly believes security clearance reform, modeled on commercial-sector practices, could save the government time and money, allowing new workers to be hired more quickly and reducing employee dishonesty through better “auditing.” It is not clear from the news report what is meant by “dishonesty” – for example, whether it relates to the clearance application process or post-hire work-related activities – or what “auditing” might entail. McConnell made the references to clearance reform in an April 4 speech, which has been posted to the DNI website.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 05, 2007 at 09:25AM | Comments (0)

OPM, Leading by Example, Expedites Clearances

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is responsible for processing the vast majority of security clearances for federal employees, says it is “leading by example” and completing clearance investigations and adjudications for its own employees in record time.

The following is a top-five ranking of agencies in fiscal year 2007, to date, showing the average number of days taken to adjudicate completed background investigations:

National Science Foundation: 15 days;
U.S. Office of Personnel Management : 18 days;
Department of Commerce: 19 days;
General Services Administration: 25 days;
(tie) Department of Health and Human Services: 39 days;
Department of Education: 39 days

Posted by The Editors on Mar 18, 2007 at 03:31PM | Comments (0)

OMB Opposes Bill Protecting Clearances

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has announced its opposition to H.R. 985, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would protect some federal “whistleblowers” from adverse security clearance action for disclosing classified information. first reported on H.R. 985 here. OMB says the measure would compromise national security, violate the Constitution, and prove burdensome and unnecessary, generating additional “frivolous complaints and wasted resources.”

The advocacy group Concerned Foreign Service Officers supports
the bill. (For a more detailed explanation of the group’s position, visit this section of their website.)

Posted by The Editors on Mar 14, 2007 at 03:11PM | Comments (2)

CRS Reviews DOE Polygraph Use

A new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reviews changes in the use of polygraph exams at the Department of Energy (DOE). The report, “examines how the DOE’s new polygraph screening policy [which limits instances in which the exam may be utilized] evolved and reviews scientific findings with regard to the polygraph’s accuracy.”

(hat tip to SecrecyNews).

Posted by The Editors on Mar 05, 2007 at 04:43PM | Comments (0)

OPM Begins Electronic Transmission of Completed Investigations

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is responsible for processing the vast majority of federal security clearances, has begun to electronically transmit completed investigation paperwork back to requesting agencies, which should alleviate delays in bringing aboard newly-cleared personnel. Read about it here.

Kathy Dillaman, associate director of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services Division, said OPM plans to offer the new service to every federal agency by the end of fiscal 2007.

The article also discusses ongoing Congressional oversight of reforms in security clearance procedures.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 28, 2007 at 11:33AM | Comments (0)

Security Clearance Oversight Group Issues Rept

The Security Clearance Oversight Group, created by the President to study and recommend reforms in the security clearance process, issued its report in February 2007. The report is extremely comprehensive and tracks progress in expediting clearance processing and improving reciprocity across several government entities.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 18, 2007 at 04:46PM | Comments (0)

House Panel Clears Measure Protecting Whistleblowers

The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee has approved for consideration on the House floor the Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act, H.R. 985. The measure:

  • Extends to certain government employees and contractors, including intelligence personnel, protections against reprisal for disclosures of government waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office investigate and produce a report of security clearance revocations linked to such disclosures;
  • Imposes limits on government agencies’ abilities to invoke the “state-secrets privilege” when denying employees reinstatement of work, clearance, or pay.

Government Executive reported on the legislation here.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 16, 2007 at 09:38AM | Comments (0)

WH May Ease Checks to Speed Clearances

Yesterday’s USA Today reported that the White House is considering measures intended to hasten the time necessary to process new top-secret security clearances, including easing up on some aspects of background investigations. A committee is deciding whether to no longer require character references and checks with academic institutions for some clearance applicants.

The goal, says Clay Johnson III, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is to speed up a process that, according to a series of government reports, wastes millions of dollars and endangers public safety by leaving thousands of defense, homeland security and intelligence jobs unfilled for more than a year.

The backlog of incomplete clearance investigations reportedly totals 350,000. Some three million Americans are said to hold varying levels of clearance.

Here is the story covered by UPI.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 15, 2007 at 04:58PM | Comments (0)

House Intel Cmte Sets Sights on Clearance Delays

The Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence includes security clearance reform among its top priorities for oversight in the 110th Congress:

The process of granting clearances to qualified professionals remains a slow, cumbersome, and overly bureaucratic process that hinders efforts to create a unified Intelligence Community workforce. The Subcommittee will review the policies and practices that make this system inefficient.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 14, 2007 at 08:31PM | Comments (0)

Hill Bill Requires DHS to Report on Clearances for State/Local Officials

H.R. 130, dubbed "The Smarter Funding for All of America’s Homeland Security Act of 2007, introduced by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), imposes on the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) several reporting requirements related to the issuance of security clearances to state and local homeland security officials. The initiative is likely the result of complaints of impediments to cooperation with DHS.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 06, 2007 at 11:42AM | Comments (0)

Gov't Watchdog Highlights Continued Clearance Woes

According to press, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report highlighting deficiencies in security clearance processing as one of several high-risk areas most in need of reform.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 01, 2007 at 10:35AM | Comments (0)

Lawyers Seek Improved Hearings on Clearances

Late last year, “recognizing the pervasive role that administrative hearings play in sorting out disputes arising under federal law,” the American Bar Association (ABA) announced that it supported “a number of initiatives in Congress to improve the process of setting the procedural rules for agencies that conduct those hearings.” According to an ABA letter to Congress, those initiatives include allowing parties in “Type-B” hearings, which include cases involving security clearances, to present and contest evidence, require an independent decision-maker to state findings and reasons for decisions, and prohibit ex parte contacts.

The ABA initiative was discussed in an article titled, “Change the Rules” which appeared in the January 2007 edition of the ABA Journal.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 31, 2007 at 09:33PM | Comments (0)

Privatizing the CIA Could Ease Clearance Shortage

In an article in the February 5, 2007, Weekly Standard, an American Enterprise Institute scholar argues that “privatizing” the Central Intelligence Agency would improve the quality of intelligence analysis by promoting accountability while easing the shortage of professionals who hold the proper security clearances necessary for analysis work.

Expanding the pool of professionals who hold security clearances would have auxiliary benefit. Not only would it enable more opinion and debate without the costs of salary and pension; but, in the long term, it would also erode the clearance lag…

At present, the CIA spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to screen and train analysts who may leave government service after only a couple of years. Making it easier for the U.S. government to employ such people would increase return on investment.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 30, 2007 at 11:33AM | Comments (0)

Hill Bill Calls on DHS to Expedite Clearances

Sections of H.R. 1, a bill on Capitol Hill to implement recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a. “the 9/11 Commission”), mandate that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide for expedited security clearance processing for certain agents of DHS sub-entities, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and detailees to a new Information Sharing Fellowship Program.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 10, 2007 at 04:27PM | Comments (0)

Jobs Growth Predicted for Cleared Personnel

Citing a surge in new defense contract awards in late 2006, an online employment service for jobs requiring security clearance predicts a boom in demand for cleared personnel. A news article includes statistics on attitudes toward the clearance process and salaries for cleared personnel.

…more than three-fourths of government contractors agreed that the need for cleared employees to work on federal contracts had increased “greatly” (51 percent) or “somewhat” (26 percent) in the past five years…

…But more than half the respondents believed the security clearance process, run by the Defense Security Service and OPM, had worsened (31 percent) or not improved at all (24 percent) in the past year.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 08, 2007 at 04:14PM | Comments (0)

New Adjudicator Training Aims to Promote Reciprocity

A policy committee of the National Security Council has released a “program of instruction” intended to encourage security clearance reciprocity – that is, mutual recognition of security clearances issued by Intelligence Community components – by standardizing adjudicator training.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 21, 2006 at 02:50PM | Comments (0)

Demand for Clearances in the Marketplace

A recent news article mentions demand in the marketplace for workers with security clearances and its impact on wages and government contracting costs.

The backlog of clearances waiting to be processed has been widely publicized, as has the recruiting of federal employees to go to the private sector because they already have their clearances.

But this problem increases costs in two ways….

Posted by The Editors on Dec 12, 2006 at 04:16PM | Comments (0)

High Risk of Mismanagement Seen in DoD Clearance Process

According to a November 2006 list of suggested areas for Congressional oversight prepared by the Government Accountability Office, security clearance processing at the Department of Defense warrants close attention.

Of the 26 areas on GAO’s 2005 [sic] high-risk list of federal programs or activities that are at risk for waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement…6 are government high-risk areas for which DOD shares some responsibility. These high-risk areas relate to DOD’s major business operations intended to support the warfighter, including DOD’s overall management approach to business transformation, including…the personnel security clearance process….

Posted by The Editors on Dec 10, 2006 at 05:07PM | Comments (0)

Washington Post Cites Clearance Delays

In a November 8 editorial, the Washington Post addressed government delays in processing new security clearances and argued that it should be possible to speed approvals without sacrificing thoroughness.

…the government isn’t filling positions that require security background checks fast enough — and the delay is costing federal agencies money and talent….

…government contractors…are offering bonuses and perks to lure workers who already hold clearances away from direct government employment, significantly increasing the cost of hiring the same people. Long waits for security clearances also drive away talent.

Some of the best reforms the Office of Personnel Management could make would improve both efficiency and quality, such as retraining a crop of inexperienced new investigators….

Posted by The Editors on Dec 09, 2006 at 05:55PM | Comments (0)

OPM, State Plan to Expedite Clearance Investigations Abroad

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and US Department of State have reached an agreement to expedite security clearance investigations abroad using qualified and specially-trained dependents of State personnel as investigators and Department of Defense facilities.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 07, 2006 at 12:57PM | Comments (0)

Members of Congress Said to Enjoy Lax Clearance Requirements

With Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings most likely to assume the chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, attention is being paid to his alleged ethical laspses and qualifications to hold security clearance, and to procedures used to grant clearances to Members of Congress generally.

Read a blog on the topic and about a law firm alleging a double-standard in issuing clearances on Capitol Hill.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 21, 2006 at 10:46AM | Comments (0)

Felons Disqualified From Clearance at US Ports

An amendment to the SAFE Post Security Act would bar persons convicted of certain serious felony offenses from acquiring clearance to work at US ports. The website of amendment sponsor US Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has more information here.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 11:37AM | Comments (0)

New Article Highlights Clearance Process Woes

An article (purchase required) in the October 2006 edition of National Defense, a publication of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), highlights some impediments to a smoother security clearance process.

The NDIA is concerned about new requirements that the Office of Personnel Management process personal identify-verification (PFV) cards, saying this will further delay clearance processing.

Industry also has significant concerns about the impact that Homeland security Presidential Directive 12 could have upon the investigative process for security clearances once. In short, HSPD-12 requires that, by October 27, 2007, everybody needing access to a federal information system or a federally controlled facility must have a biometrically encrypted identification card. This directive applies to government, contractor and subcontractor employees alike. Recently, an interim Federal Acquisition Regulation was published, applying the directive to contracts and subcontracts…

This rule further requires that the procedures use the OPM Federal Investigative Services for the personal identity-verification investigation and the FBI records databases for the criminal background check.

It is the requirement for using OPM that is most disconcerting. Industry is concerned that since OPM, thus far, has had significant difficulty in processing the existing applications for security clearances in a timely fashion, the process will only degrade further once agencies begin to submit applications for PFV investigations.

See a recent item on the new ID cards here.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 11:23AM | Comments (0)

New DoD Guidelines Clarify Foreign Preference Considerations

McKenna, Long, and Aldridge, a Washington, DC law firm, has posted a synopsis of September 2006 revised Department of Defense Guidelines governing adjudication of security clearances.

It writes that the revisions provide increased guidance on the Guideline’s disqualifying and mitigating conditions for determining security clearance eligibility and, in particular, clarify and soften the criteria for evalutating foreign preference and influence.

Among the law firm’s findings:

  • The revised Guidelines follow “a significant increase in the number of negative initial determinations for applicants with foreign backgrounds;”
  • Disqualifications due to holding of foreign passports have been eased;
  • Disqualifications due to foreign contacts have also been eased;
  • DoD adjudicators should consider in their decisions “the identity of the country in which the foreign contact” is located and that country’s reputation for espionage or terrorism.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 11:05AM | Comments (0)

Revised DoD Clearance Guidelines May Provide Some Relief

Contract Management, in its October 2006 edition, summarized key elements of revised Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance adjudication guidelines. The new guidelines appear to provide some relief for clearance applicants concerned that the “whole person” approach is not employed in adjudication decisions.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 10:31AM | Comments (0)

GAO Cites Shortcomings in OPM and DoD Clearance Processing

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has released a new report (highlights here) citing delays and quality concerns in security clearance processing at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Department of Defense (DoD).

Read news coverage on the GAO report here, here, and here. Readers may also find more information on the GAO report in a November 2 Defense Daily article.

US Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), a vocal advocate of security clearance reform, issued a press release on the GAO report. The release is also referenced here.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 30, 2006 at 02:13PM | Comments (0)

ODNI Report Discusses Clearance Reforms

A new, unclassified report issued by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) and approved for release via the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Project highlights challenges ahead for Intelligence Community personnel management. The Report touches upon aspects of security clearance reform…

Posted by The Editors on Oct 19, 2006 at 02:52PM | Comments (0)

DHS Plans Clearance Changes to Ease State, Local Intelligence-Sharing

Following complains first highlighted on these pages in September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to a report [registration required] in today’s Wall Street Journal, is planning to ease security clearance processing for state and local officials cooperating with DHS on counterterrorism.

We have heard the complaints and are working on fixing the problems, said Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of DHS. Among the changes…are plans to speed up security clearances for local police….

Trouble came to a head over the summer when DHS officials removed a Washington, D.C., police liaison officer from the department’s National Operations Center over a misunderstanding about her security clearance level….

Mr. Jackson said he is confident such issues will be resolved with his department’s hiring of a private company to accelerate security clearances for police officers working with DHS in Washington and elsewhere.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 16, 2006 at 04:09PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Applicants With Foreign Links to Face Less Scrutiny

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence plans to ease security clearance investigations for selected applicants with foreign contacts. The measure is intended to alleviate delays in security clearance processing.

Glenn Stampler, deputy director for oversight and liaison for the Director of National Intelligence’s Special Security Center, said the stringent background checks are backing up the security clearance process.

Only intelligence offices within the Defense and State departments, which have borne the brunt of these clearance requirements, would be affected by rule changes, he said:

“It’s driving the military crazy,” Stampler said. “They cannot get people cleared fast enough, because people who are stationed overseas marry foreign nationals.”

Also, Foreign Service officers at State have to make foreign contacts as part of their job, he said.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 27, 2006 at 04:25PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearances and Terrorist Trials

A deal brokered between Senate Republicans and the White House on procedures in detainee trials reportedly will allow accused terrorists access to an unclassified summary of classified information used against them.

… while the administration wanted to keep classified information at military trials out of the hands of accused terrorists, senators say they have prevailed in insisting that the defendants have a right to see any government evidence that could lead to a conviction. The agreement guarantees defendants an unclassified summary of classified evidence.

However, the House may pursue a different arrangement that allows cleared officers of a military court access to classified information, thereby avoiding release of an unclassified summary or granting clearance to defendants’ counsel.

“We think on the House side we should be able to bring about convictions without classified evidence that is disclosed to the defendants,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Hunter is pursuing an arrangement permitting an officer of a military court with a security clearance to see classified information and cross-examine witnesses without a defendant seeing the evidence.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 22, 2006 at 05:09PM | Comments (0)

State Officials: Clearance Delays Inhibit Cooperation With DHS

In testimony before Congress in early September, state officials said delays in acquiring necessary clearances at the Department of Homeland Security are hampering counterterrorism cooperation with the federal agency.

…federal security clearances are not recognized between agencies, and the process for local, state and tribal officials to receive a clearance is cumbersome and frequently takes multiple months or years to complete.

Find more on the story here.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 12, 2006 at 07:47PM | Comments (0)

OPM Claims Significant Progress in Security Clearance Reform

The federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in mid-July, issued a press release claiming a number of successes in streamlining the security clearance investigations process. Among the listed achievements were:

  • Reductions in time required to complete clearance investigations;
  • Upgrades to the online Clearance Verification System;
  • Expanding the use of contractors to help expedite clearance investigations

OPM said it was “well on our way” to meeting requirements set forth in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 02, 2006 at 11:28AM | Comments (0)

OMB Allocates Clearance Reform Responsibilities

In a May 2005 memorandum, the Office of Management and Budget, as directed by Executive Order 13381, allocated responsibilities to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for strengthening processes relating to determining eligibility for access to classified information.

For more information on Executive Order 13381, visit the links page.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 24, 2006 at 12:01AM | Comments (0)

House Says Clearance Reforms Moving Too Slowly

In its Initial Assessment on the Implementation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reviews initial reforms in security clearance processing and finds fault, on several counts, in the efforts of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The July 2006 Subcommittee report, relevant portions of which begin on page 30, also identifies key reforms mandated in legislation and Executive Orders.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 23, 2006 at 11:38PM | Comments (0)

New Pentagon Proposal May Threaten Clearance Processing

The Baltimore Business Journal reports (registration required) on a new Pentagon proposal that may slow issuing security clearances.

Two years ago, the chief executive of the super-secretive National Security Agency was downright chatty when addressing business groups across Maryland about the need to dramatically reduce the time it takes to issue security clearances for defense contractors.

Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden’s candor underscored the pressing need to have cleared professionals in the private sector available to handle a fast-growing workload. At that time, Hayden, now General Hayden, director of the CIA, was blunt about the pressing need to clean out the bottleneck in the security clearance process…

Posted by The Editors on Aug 21, 2006 at 04:16PM | Comments (0)

Overview of Clearance Process Problems, Reforms

Published in The Government Contractor_, two Washington, DC, attorneys at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP completed an exceptionally well-researched and detailed overviewmccullough.pdf (pdf) of problems in the security clearance process and assess progress toward reform. Their May 2006 paper is a must-read for anyone needing to get up-to-speed on the issue.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 11, 2006 at 12:41AM | Comments (0)

Surveying the Clearance Reform Action Agenda

In one of the earliest articles written on the subject, an official at the National Defense Industrial Association, in December 2004, surveyed the troubles in the security clearance process.

…The current system also lacks sufficient capacity to conduct the growing demand for backlog of investigations. It does not employ the technology and processes required today to get the job done….

While fixing responsibility seems fundamental to repairing the problems, industry should know that there is some good news to go along with the bad….

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 05:12PM | Comments (0)

Dept of State Extends Student Clearances

In February 2005, the U.S. Department of State announced improvements to the Visa Mantis program, which pre-clears foreign students for travel to U.S. educational institutions. According to a report in Chemical & Engineering News, students may now be pre-cleared for the duration of their studies

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 03:26PM | Comments (0)

ABA Review of Clearance Demand, Reform

In a March 2005 article (unavailable online) titled “Security Clearance Backlog Can Result in More Work, More Challenges for Lawyers,” the ABA Journal of the American Bar Association reviewed pending changes in security clearance investigations and their impact.

The backlog of investigations for security clearances had been increasing steadily in past decades, as did work for lawyers helping corporations and individuals get them.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, security clearance investigations are more stringent and more numerous, driven by demand from a ramped-up defense industry and the new Department of Homeland Security. Backlogs have ballooned, and workers with the prized clearances are in short supply. But there is no shortage of work for their lawyers…

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 03:01PM | Comments (0)

National Security Whistleblowers

In February 2006, Washington, DC-based attorney Mark Zaid, consulted often by Congress on security clearance issues, testified before a House committee on the need for greater protections for federal whistleblowers.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 01:18AM | Comments (0)

Foreign Preference in Security Clearance Determinations

In July 2006, Washington, DC-based attorney Mark Zaid, consulted often by Congress on security clearance issues, testified before a House committee investigating the government’s use of foreign preference concerns to revoke or deny security clearances. Zaid argued that loyal and trustworthy Americans of valuable service to the government are being denied clearance due to harmless ties to foreign countries.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 01:14AM | Comments (1)

Adjudicators Question New Timelines for Clearance Approvals

According to an October 2005 article in Federal Computer Week, some security clearance adjudicators find fault in new deadlines for processing clearance applications. Also discussed are steps employers and clearance applicants can take to expedite approvals.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 09, 2006 at 12:53AM | Comments (0)

230,000 Clearance Applications Await Approval

In a February 2006 article, Security Management reviewed efforts underway by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to expedite clearance processing.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 09, 2006 at 12:37AM | Comments (0)

OMB Issues Guidance on Clearance Reciprocity

In December 2005, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance enforcing reciprocity of existing security clearances, pursuant to Executive Order 13381. The guidance addressed several action issues, including cases where reciprocity is required, a community-wide accessible database to locate personnel clearance information, and improving confidence among clearance adjudicators in each other’s work to ease reciprocity.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 08, 2006 at 05:19PM | Comments (0)

Pentagon to Allow Contractors With Expired Clearances to Continue Work

The Office of Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons reports that the Pentagon will allow defense contractors with pending but delayed clearance renewals to continue to work at a site in the State. Correspondence the Congressman received from the Pentagon clarifies DoD policy on handling of “expired” clearances. See also this story and this story.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 03, 2006 at 02:16PM | Comments (0)

Alleged Seattle Jewish Center Gunman Has Security Clearance

July 30, 2006: According to news reports, here and here, a man who allegedly opened fire at a Seattle Jewish center, killing one and wounding at least five others, holds a federally-issued security clearance as a condition of his employment at the Hansford nuclear reservation. The suspect reportedly worked there with his father and other members of the local Muslim community.

Notably, just prior to the shooting, the suspect reportedly was stopped and ticketed for a minor traffic infraction but, according to police, gave no indication of suspicious activity or his impending plan.

In light of recent policy recommendations that persons holding security clearances should be entitled to expedited screening at airports, this incident is particularly noteworthy. It is also notable that the suspect held a clearance despite reports of a history of mental illness and pending charge of lewd conduct.

You can share your reactions to these stories below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 31, 2006 at 05:16AM | Comments (0)

Persons With Clearances Seen As Favored Travelers

July 26, 2006: If policy analysts at a Washington, DC, think-tank have their way, persons holding a federal security clearance will be considered “low-risk passengers” eligible for expedited screening at airports. In a new policy paper, the analysts also argue that little progress has been made toward enhancing aviation security since September 11, 2001.

A similar initiative for the general public has been underway in Orlando since last year.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 10:41PM | Comments (0)

Changes Forthcoming in Clearance Reciprocity

July 17, 2006: According to the Secrecy Project of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), “reciprocity” refers to “the acceptance by one agency of a security clearance granted by another agency, and vice versa”. Read more from FAS on this here.

The White House has issued a Checklist of Permitted Exceptions to Reciprocity.

The Strategy Page opines that denying reciprocity may enhance national security by allowing more detailed investigations that may identify persons of risk.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 10:22PM | Comments (0)

A Consortium of Industry Groups Urges Clearance Process Reforms

July 17, 2006: The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) announced recommendations for improvements in the security clearance process. ITAA Intelligence Committee Chairman Doug Wagoner frequently testifies on Capitol Hill about problems and solutions related to security clearance processing. Federal Computer Week carries a related news story.

See also this industry Whitepaper.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 10:12PM | Comments (0)

Using Automation to Speed Clearance Processing

July 12, 2006: A group of government and industry experts testified
to Congress that the Office of Personnel Management ought to utilize automation to expedite security clearance approvals.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:58PM | Comments (0)

Tracking Progress on Expediting Clearances

July 2006: According to news reports, federal officials insist steps are being taken to expedite the processing of security clearances. See here and here.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:56PM | Comments (0)

Are Hastened Investigations Impacting Thoroughness?

July 11, 2006: An article in Government Executive magazine reports that Federal government security clearance processors face challenges in completing clearance investigations by mandated deadlines. One complaint is that the quality of initial investigations suffers. Time allowed for investigations may not permit use of “dangles” to test a person’s trustworthiness. See also here. (Editor’s Note: If this link does not function, try adding an equals sign to the end.)

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:31PM | Comments (0)

Congress Acts to Protect Whistleblowers But Excludes Cleared Personnel

June 26, 2006: The United States Senate has voted
overwhelmingly to provide additional protections for government whistleblowers but exempted employees of intelligence agencies. See also a report by UPI. (Editor’s Note: If this link does not function, try adding an equals sign to its end.)

Our Links page has more information on organizations and activities to protect government whistleblowers.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 09:47PM | Comments (0)

Laptop Mismap Prompts VA to Ramp Up Security Investigations

May 26, 2006: According to news reports, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to review current employees’ access to sensitive data and require new background investigations in response to the loss of a laptop computer that held data on millions of veterans. (The laptop was later recovered and the data found uncompromised.)

A VA policy nominee pledges to make protecting sensitive information a priority.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 08:50PM | Comments (0)

GAO Seeks to Explain Delays in Contractor Clearances

May 17, 2006: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report reviewing the timeliness and completeness of security clearance processes for industry personnel working on Federal government contracts. GAO found that communication problems among clearance processing agencies and inadequate performance by clearance investigators were responsible for delays in processing clearances.

You may read a senior GAO official’s Congressional testimony on the report here.

Are GAO’s findings having any impact yet upon security clearance processes at your agency? Are its conclusions reflected in procedures at your agency as well? Let’s others know your thoughts below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 08:44PM | Comments (0)

Congress Faults Initial DoD Clearance Improvements

May 2006: The Department of Defense (DoD) has stopped processing new clearances because the Defense Security Service, which handles the process, has run out of funds. According to news reports, at a Congressional hearing, Members of Congress were not satisfied to hear that limited funds have been identified to resume processing clearances, and they sought more lasting solutions from government witnesses with responsibility for clearance processing. See also, this story.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 05:11PM | Comments (0)

DoD Inspector General Cites Needed Improvements in Clearance Process

April 2006: The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued a report
on security clearance processes within DoD. The report “discusses impediments to the DoD security clearance process and the need to develop and issue policy to ensure consistent implementation of the personnel security clearance program."

How has the IG’s report been received throughout DoD? Have you been caught up in seemingly endless procedures with regard to your DoD-issued clearance? Give us your thoughts and recommendations below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 04:51PM | Comments (0)

Survey of Measures and Reforms to Protect Classified Information in Congress

June 2006: The Congressional Research Service released a survey of measures employed to protect classified information in Congress. The report includes information on security clearance requirements of elected officials and staff on Capitol Hill. Proposed reforms are addressed, including expanding the categories and numbers of persons requiring clearance and requiring financial disclosure and polygraph exams of those granted clearance. The report may also be found here and here.

Are you a Hill staffer or elected official with insights to share on the handling of classified information or security clearances in Congress? If so, share them below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 04:21PM | Comments (0)

Watchdog Group Seeks First-Hand Accounts of Clearance-Related Harrassment

February 2006: The Government Accountability Project (GAP) sought
testimony from persons whose security clearance was revoked as retribution for having spoken out about government wrong-doing. GAP sought individuals to provide their experiences to a February 14 hearing of a Congressional subcommittee.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 02:40PM | Comments (0)

GAO Seeks Answers to DoD Clearance Delays

June 2005: The General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a preliminary report on security clearance delays at the Department of Defense. Delays were reported in identifying which jobs (and personnel) require clearance, completing security investigations, and monitoring the status of clearance adjudications by integrating several government databases.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 02:35PM | Comments (0)

Major US Contractor Says Clearance Backlog Starves Government of Experts

Major US Government defense contractor Northrop Grumman has posted a policy paper arguing that “the current security clearance process impedes the availability of experts critical to government missions both inside and outside of federal service” and recommends that government and industry work together to implement a series of procedural changes to permit the more expeditious approval of clearances for well-qualified individuals. Are clearance hurdles slowing the hiring of experts at your company? Share your insights below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 25, 2006 at 05:33PM | Comments (0)

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