Air Force will help redo DOD clearance system

Air Force will help redo DOD clearance system

DSS' Charles J. Cunningham Jr. says he viewed the initial start up of the system as a false start.

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Defense Security Service has tapped the Air Force to help rework a problem-plagued security clearance case management system.

The goal is to cut the clearance process from an average of 270 days to 180 days. The Air Force Standard Systems Group at Gunter Annex'Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., will provide program management for the Case Control Management System upgrade.

'Managing information technology programs is not one of our core competencies,' said Charles J. Cunningham Jr., DSS director.

'The Case Control Management System hasn't worked very well. We're repairing it, and it's going to work,' said Cunningham, who took over as DSS director in November after serving as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for intelligence.

The Standard Systems Group will select a contractor to do the CCMS work. DSS has spent $100 million so far to fully automate the clearance process, according to a November General Accounting Office report, DOD Personnel: Inadequate Personnel Security Investigations Pose National Security Risk.

Meanwhile, DSS will outsource half of its caseload, said Cunningham, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. Outsourcing some work will not cost any of DSS' 2,500 employees their jobs, he said.

'I don't feel pressure as much as an eagerness' to improve things, he said, noting that GAO was on target with many of its criticisms.

'CCMS has been unable to accept data from the Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire (EPSQ) needed to open investigations and cannot produce investigative reports,' GAO said. The auditors concluded that poor planning and testing led to some CCMS problems.

Not quite ready

Cunningham said he views the initial version of CCMS, which came online in late 1998, as a false start.

DSS has a $233.6 million budget for this fiscal year, up from $193.4 million last year. It has earmarked $10 million for CCMS this year and $30 million for fiscal 2001.

DSS handles 140,000 to 150,000 background investigations a year. A typical case takes about 270 days, but some take a year or more. 'We want to bring the backlog down,' he said.

DSS each year also handles about 600,000 reviews of employees who have been granted confidential, secret and top-secret clearances. These reviews are done at five- to 15-year intervals, depending on the type of clearance.

To begin a clearance investigation, DSS receives an EPSQ. The form includes initial information from agencies and contractors about personnel who need security clearances.

DSS stores the EPSQ data in Oracle7 databases on Compaq Alpha 8400 servers. The service sends an encrypted EPSQ file to one of a dozen DSS field offices, using either File Transfer Protocol via a network administered by Patuxent Naval Air Station, Md., or through the mail on a disk.

DSS agents gather and add data on the subject. When agents have completed a review, they send data to one of eight DOD adjudication offices, which grant or deny clearance.

Users access the Oracle databases via the Files Automation and Scanning System developed by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. FASS, written in C, is a records creation and retrieval application that runs under Microsoft Windows NT on users' PCs, which are linked on Novell NetWare LANs, said Charlene S. Jensen, DSS deputy chief of staff for information technology and communications.

DSS' 300 users share files using Documetrix workflow software from Universal Systems Inc. of Chantilly, Va. It uses Structured Query Language scripts to make changes in the Oracle files.

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