Johnson vows progress on security clearances

Relief from the backlog of industry security clearances for contractors might be on the way but there is still plenty of work to do, according to the White House official overseeing the effort.

The logjam of industry personnel trying to get security clearances is mostly at the Defense Department, said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

His office released a report today outlining progress that has been made in the security clearance process used for both contractors and government personnel.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2008, the initial clearance process, from investigation through adjudication, took 118 days on average, the OMB report states.

But getting better at the current process isn't the complete answer and won't enable the government to reach the December 2009 goals set by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, Johnson said. The act sets a goal of 74 days on average, 44 days faster than what was achieved in the first quarter of fiscal 2008.

"It is not just being better at the current system, we have got to reform, if not transform, the system," he said.

To achieve the 74-day goal, the government has to make better use of digitized files, electronic records and e-adjudication processes, Johnson said.

The government also has a perception issue with industry, which feels the clearance process actually takes longer than the government's report shows, he said.

It takes 25 days longer on average for a contractor employee to be adjudicated and receive a clearance than for a government employee, "which is totally unacceptable," Johnson said.

Most of the problem is at DOD, which puts contractor applications through more steps than government employees go through, Johnson said.

"People believe the system can be made more like the process for employees and that is what they are doing," he said.

Research and development efforts are underway to find ways to shorten and automate parts of the investigation and adjudication process, Johnson said.

"We have to identify and validate reforms to the system and then we have to implement them aggressively," he said. "It is going to require a lot of work."

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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