GAO: Defense needs to turn around security clearance automation effort

The Defense Department does not have an exact accounting of its security clearance backlog, in part because of delays in implementing the Joint Personnel Adjudication System, the General Accounting Office reported today.

'Delays in implementing the joint adjudication system, JPAS, have greatly inhibited the ability to monitor overdue reinvestigations and generate accurate estimates for that portion of the backlog,' GAO said in its new report (PDF).

Based on its review, GAO said it estimates the backlog as quite sizeable. 'DOD did not know the size of its security clearance backlog at the end of September 2003 and has not estimated the size of the backlog since January 2000,' the congressional auditor noted.

In its response, Defense said GAO failed to take into account recent progress on the program. 'The business process re-engineering and improvements under way will allow us to better understand our front-end clearance requirements and conduct capacity analyses,' Carol A. Haave, deputy undersecretary of Defense for counterintelligence and security, said in a letter to GAO.

GAO found that a number of impediments have hamstrung DOD from estimating the size of and eliminating the backlog:

  • Large number of new requests for clearances

  • Size of the clearance workforce is roughly half of what is needed to eliminate the backlog

  • Lack of a strategic plan to gain access to state, local and overseas information

  • Failure to provide adequate oversight for the program.

  • With JPAS, DOD wants to consolidate its security clearance data systems and provide near-real-time input and retrieval of the data for Defense investigators, adjudicators and security officers at commands, agencies and industrial facilities.

    Defense had planned for JPAS to come online in 2001. And although the department pushed back rollout to this past January, the system has not been deployed, GAO said. The program team has faced numerous delays in loading data from its many internally developed databases, the report said.


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