Industry coalition calls for security clearance improvements

The federal government needs to take four steps to dramatically speed and improve the security clearance process, a coalition of technology trade groups said today.

Currently, it can take more than a year to get a security clearance, a delay that is making it difficult for contractors to respond quickly, the coalition said.

In a white paper, Improving the Security Clearance Process through Automation and Common Criteria, the coalition recommended that the government make four changes that it said will enable the government to respond more quickly to security threats, save taxpayer dollars and allow government projects to proceed on time.

The coalition recommended that the government:

  • Allow some people to be cleared who are not currently assigned to a project requiring a clearance. Currently, only people requiring a clearance for a specific job are allowed to get cleared. Granting clearances to an additional 20 percent of workers above the base amount of cleared personnel would allow contractors to quickly and cost-effectively staff projects upon contract award, the coalition said.

  • Increase the use of private-sector adjudicators until the current clearance backlog is eliminated and the processing delay is 30 days or less.

  • Increase the reciprocity of clearances, so that cleared workers can be shared among agencies and contractors. Currently, workers leaving a project and returning to the agency a few weeks later can wait months to get their clearances reinstated.

  • Standardize the data and processes required for clearances, so that every agency has the same base process for the lowest-level clearance. A standardized process would set the foundation for a tiered level of more advanced clearances, the coalition said.

  • The coalition members are the Information Technology Association of America, Professional Services Council, Security Affairs Support Association, Contract Services Association, Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

    "Critical government work is being affected because government contractors cannot get the necessary people through the clearance process in a timely manner. With defending the homeland and winning the war on terrorism top national priorities, we need to remove this procedural bottleneck and put people to work in these and other vital defense, intelligence and law enforcement areas," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America.

    Contractor personnel are required to have security clearances to perform government work that requires access to classified information. The clearances involve background investigations in areas such as identity verification, educational attainment, employment history, criminal record and financial status.

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