ARLINGTON, VA (April 25, 2019) – INSA welcomes the signing of the Executive Order (EO) on Transferring Responsibility for Background Investigations to the Department of Defense, which transfers the government-wide background investigation mission to the Defense Department’s newly established Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. The centralization of investigation, adjudication, continuous evaluation (CE), and credentialing functions is critical for an effective and efficient clearance process.
INSA has long called for steps that make the security clearance process faster, more transparent, and consistent across government agencies while still maintaining high standards that protect national security.
This EO provides a common-sense framework for instituting a more comprehensive process, including CE that – with appropriate privacy and civil liberties protections in place – will identify potential risks in near-real time and reduce the need for time-consuming periodic reinvestigations (PRs) of cleared personnel.
While this reorganization should promote greater efficiency, it will not by itself significantly reduce the backlog of security clearance investigations, which currently stands at just under 500,000 cases. Meeting ODNI’s stated goal of halving the backlog by the end of fiscal year 2019 will require sustained effort from both government and industry.
The EO is a significant step, but much remains to be done to modernize the clearance process. Critical next steps that must be taken include:
- Passage of Title VI of the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 245) or of the “Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019” (S. 314), which contains equivalent language. These bills contain provisions vital to reforming the security clearance process, including requiring completion of reciprocity requests within two weeks, increased transparency into the steps agencies take to accelerate the clearance process, and a requirement that 90 percent of clearance determinations be granted within set timelines (30 days for Secret clearances and 90 days for Top Secret clearances).
- Implementation of CE across government. A comprehensive, uniform whole-of-government CE program will improve security and permit investigative resources to be focused on mitigating priority threats and growing the trusted workforce.
- Government adoption of uniform standards for investigations, adjudications, credentialing, and continuous evaluation. These standards are essential for clearance portability and reciprocity across agencies and will improve the efficiency of investigations and insider threat assessments.
- Elimination of duplicative efforts regarding clearance and suitability. In many cases, government personnel or contractors who already have a security clearance must be assessed for fitness or suitability under less stringent criteria issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Coordination between the ODNI and OPM, which serve as Executive Agents for Security and Suitability, respectively – can eliminate duplicative evaluations that delay the start of mission-critical work.
- Continued congressional oversight of clearance reform. The security clearance process is highly complex and involves multiple executive branch agencies operating under diverse legal authorities. Continued congressional oversight will be critical to ensure that the executive branch follows through on commitments to improve and streamline the process.
For far too long, the government’s security clearance system has relied on processes that have changed little since the Cold War. Recent improvements have begun to make more productive use of technology and publicly available electronic information to investigate new hires and identify insider threats. This new EO, which empowers a single organization to apply these improvements more effectively, will set the stage for the important work of ensuring and sustaining a trusted workforce for the nation.
For more information contact:
Director of Communications and Policy