Pressure kept on security clearance backlog

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., on May 14 asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James to take immediate steps to eliminate a huge backlog in security clearance applications and improve the security clearance process.

The letter was the second sent to Rumsfeld following a May 6 House Government Reform Committee hearing about the security clearance backlog. Davis said the backlog threatens national security, because workers cannot quickly obtain the necessary clearances to access classified information on the job. He is chairman of the committee.

Washington Technology obtained a copy of Davis' letter today. Davis spokesman David Marin said the congressman has received responses from both Rumsfeld and James.

"The written responses were brief, assuring follow up from appropriate high-level staff within their agencies. Those responses have resulted in meetings and phone calls involving the chairman," Marin said.

In his letter, Davis asked Rumsfeld and James to immediately begin processing 2004 security clearance applications and asked that Defense Security Service investigators use their Case Control Management System, instead of OPM's system, until the backlog is eliminated.

"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," Davis wrote.

In February, there was a backlog of 87,914 security clearance investigations, according to the Defense Security Service, which processes security clearance applications for defense agencies and federal contractors. OPM processes security clearance applications for the Defense Department and civilian agencies.

In his May 14 letter, Davis complained that 2,000 security clearance cases are sent each day from DSS to OPM to be entered into OPM's Personnel Investigation Processing System, before being sent back to DSS agents for investigation. DSS agents are not fully trained to use PIPS, so they can't start the investigation process themselves, Davis said.

Davis said he found it "incomprehensible" that DOD would shut down the Case Control Management System it uses for investigations in favor of using OPM's PIPS when DOD investigators are not fully trained to use PIPS. He also said he was skeptical that DSS would be able to finish training its investigators on PIPS by June 2004. A DOD official told Davis May 6 that the training would be finished next month.

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