The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence showed that the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard took the longest of any agencies in processing security clearances. Above, DHS headquarters in Washington. (Getty Images)
More than 2.8 million federal employees and at least 1 million contractors and consultants have security clearances, according to a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The number represents the number of security clearances as of October 2010 and is an increase of roughly 45,000 from a year before. The report marks the first time the government has inventoried the number of people having access to classified material.
The report also shows the number of contractors holding clearances declined slightly since October 2009. Contractors holding top secret clearances in October 2010 numbered 524,990, down from 536,637 the year before. Contractors holding confidential/secret clearances in October 2010 totaled 541,097, down from 552,088 the year before.
The total is "breathtakingly large" — perhaps, too large, said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists.
When more than 1 million people are cleared for access to top-secret information, Aftergood said, "the security of that information may be compromised."
In fiscal 2010, agencies approved 643,000 new confidential, secret and top-secret clearances, the report found.
The report, required by last year's intelligence authorization act, must be updated each year. It does not break down the number of clearances by agency.
The report also showed that the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard took the longest of any agencies in processing security clearances.