Defense's security clearance database fails

Defense's security clearance database fails

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The system that manages security investigations for Defense Department employees and contractors recently was down for two weeks after a database overload led the system to shut down automatically.

The Case Control Management System (CCMS) was out of commission from June 29 to July 12, said Charles J. Cunningham Jr., director of the Defense Security Service. By July 14, the system was back to full capacity, he said.


DSS' Charles Cunningham says move to Oracle8i will help.


'There was no [sudden] crash. It was a shutdown. The software shuts down, and it saves some functions,' he said.

The system, which uses an Oracle7 relational database management system, stalled because users had overloaded it, which corrupted some files, Cunningham said.

DSS personnel exceeded the database's capacity, which is noted in the user guide, he said.

'We're generating a lot of files,' Cunningham said. 'We have done a couple of things to improve performance while it was down.'

Through a contract awarded to Litton PRC Inc. in February, DSS is working to improve CCMS' performance. DSS needs to move to Oracle8i, which has greater capacity than Oracle7, Cunningham said.

The Air Force Standard Systems Group is managing the program for DSS.

DSS handles 140,000 to 150,000 background investigations each year. Officials are outsourcing about half of the caseload to cut the average processing time from 270 days to 180 days [GCN, Jan. 10, Page 6].

'I promised industry that those cases that are submitted at the end of [the calendar] year, if they're not complicated by adverse information, will be done by 180 days,' Cunningham said.

'CCMS has improved to the point where we'll be able to track and [identify] more efficiently the work to be done in the cases,' he said.

It is important to have a program manager such as SSG because 'a lot of well-meaning people who are eagerly trying to deliver productwill get at cross-purposes with each other,' Cunningham said. 'A strong [program management office] is essential.'

In addition to finalizing a well-developed concept of operations, DSS must develop a baseline architecture for CCMS, Cunningham said. 'You can't just do it on the fly,' he said of systems development.

'Once you get the baseline architecture, you can put together a schedule and a budget. Those are the major lessons of CCMS,' he said.

Cunningham took over at DSS in November. He reports to Arthur L. Money, assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence. DSS is part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Room to improve

Besides its basic operations and maintenance budget, CCMS has $10 million in procurement funding for fiscal 2000 that DSS can spend on improving the system, Cunningham said.

'In the grand scheme of things, we are one problem,' he said. 'We are one of many problems' in DOD, which makes competing for funding difficult, he said.

DSS personnel initially wanted to go back to a paper-based process for handling investigations and reviews for security clearances, he said.

'In the long run, staying with the decision to go electronic was the right decision,' Cunningham said. 'We have the capacity to connect electronically with our customer base' and with other systems, such as the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which can speed up work.

'Most of [the investigators] are overwhelmed,' Cunningham said. 'They want this backlog taken care of more than anyone else.'

The program's efforts to reduce turnaround times on clearances have been complicated by a reduction in the DSS work force and security policy changes.

DSS went from a high of 4,000 employees in 1989 to 2,500 today, DSS spokeswoman Caryl Clubb said. DOD investigations policy has affected DSS in recent years, she said, noting that DOD now requires that holders of secret clearances be reviewed every 10 years.

Previously, DOD had set a moratorium on the interval security reviews. 'When the moratorium on periodic reviews was lifted, it created a huge workload for us,' Clubb said.

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