Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients said the government has made progress in speeding up the adjudication of security clearance investigations. (THOMAS BROWN / STAFF)
The government last year said it had finally broken the back of its sluggish security clearance process.
Obama administration officials on Tuesday presented updated statistics to a Senate subcommittee that they said showed agencies have held those gains and avoided backsliding.
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said his agency took an average of 41 days to finish nine out of 10 initial security clearance investigations in fiscal 2009. In fiscal 2010, the fastest 90 percent of initial investigations were done in 39 days.
Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients said the government has also made progress in speeding up the adjudication of those cases, in which agencies review the background checks conducted by OPM and its contractors and decide whether someone should be granted a security clearance.
The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act (IRTPA) required the government by December 2009 to finish 90 percent of initial security clearance investigations in 40 days and 90 percent of initial adjudications in 20 days, for a total of 60 days.
"We have consistently met the IRTPA target since that date," Zients said. "Today, 90 percent of security clearance determinations are completed within 53 days, a 74 percent reduction from the 2004 level. Moreover, the decades-old backlog of investigations is gone."
The Government Accountability Office backed up the administration's claims and said it has seen progress at the Defense Department. The fastest 90 percent of DoD's initial security clearances took 48 days to investigate and adjudicate in the third quarter of fiscal 2010, Brenda Farrell, GAO's director of defense capabilities and management, said. Even the first quarter, which was the slowest of the three quarters so far reported, beat the 60-day deadline by three days, Farrell said. GAO did not have statistics on the fourth quarter.
"Although DoD has made significant progress in reducing delays in making personnel security clearance decisions, it is important that DoD sustain this progress," Farrell said.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs federal work-force subcommittee, and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, applauded the progress, but said more work remains to be done.
"I am particularly concerned about the lack of progress being made regarding reciprocity, as I still consistently hear from individuals who have problems with one agency accepting another agency's clearance," Voinovich said.