OPM chief defends security clearance process

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

"The information you were provided ? is incorrect," James wrote to Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

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.

Davis had written James and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld May 14 to ask that the agencies immediately begin processing the 2004 applications. Citing a lack of training for some DSS employees on use of OPM's case management system, Davis also asked that DSS investigators use their Case Control Management System, instead of OPM's system, until the backlog is eliminated.

In her letter to Davis, James said all DSS investigators would be trained to use OPM's Personnel Investigations Processing System by the end of June. She said the move to OPM's system is necessary because it can handle the increasing workloads of security clearance investigations, and because it has greater functionality than the DSS system.

Since February, DSS has sent nearly 61,000 investigations to OPM for processing, James wrote. She said OPM staff immediately open the investigations by conducting national agency record checks before turning them over to DSS staff for field investigative work.

"The training on OPM's systems has been highly successful and well received by DSS staff, and they began producing work on OPM's system immediately after training," James wrote. She also said the two agencies have established a common investigator's handbook and a standard reporting format.

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

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