OPM defends security clearance efforts

OPM Director Kay Coles James

J. Adam Fenster

Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.)

Henrik G. de Gyor

Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James is disputing an assertion by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) that neither OPM nor the Defense Security Service has begun processing fiscal 2004 security clearance applications.

Following a May 6 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee, which Davis chairs, Davis wrote May 14 to James and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying, "I am told that neither DOD nor OPM is processing these [2004] cases -- which grow by the thousands every day -- for reasons that are not entirely clear. This is unacceptable."

The backlog of security clearance investigations, pegged at 87,914 in February by the Defense Security Service, threatens national security because workers cannot quickly get clearances necessary to access classified information on the job, Davis wrote.

[IMGCAP(2)]James countered that DSS has sent nearly 61,000 investigations to OPM for processing since February. OPM staff immediately open the investigations by conducting national agency record checks before turning them over to DSS staff for field investigative work, she said in a May 25 letter.

OPM uses its Personnel Investigations Processing System to process security clearance applications for the Defense Department and civilian agencies. The speed with which DSS employees are being trained to use the processing system instead of DSS' Case Control Management system has been a point of contention.

In his letter, Davis asked that DSS investigators, who are being trained to use the Personnel Investigations Processing System, use their own system until the backlog is eliminated. He remained skeptical of James' assurances that all DSS investigators will be trained to use the system by the end of June.

The move to OPM's system is necessary, James said, because it has greater functionality than the DSS system and can handle the increasing workloads of security clearance investigations.

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