Top-secret DOD clearances bogged down, GAO says

The General Accounting Office yesterday said the Defense Department has run into a security clearance logjam for contractor personnel, much like the backlog GAO reported in February for military personnel.

Contractors made one-fifth of all security clearance requests in fiscal 2003 but faced untimely delays, GAO found in 'DOD Personnel Clearances: Preliminary Observations Related to Backlogs and Delays in Determining Security Clearance Eligibility for Industry Personnel.'

As of March 31, DOD estimated its clearance backlog for industry personnel at 188,000 cases. Several things are hindering DOD's ability to eliminate its backlog for military as well as industry personnel, GAO said. The impediments include:
  • A large number of new requests, including an increase in the proportion of top-secret clearance requests, which take longer and are more expensive than secret clearances

  • Inaccurate workload projections

  • Insufficient staff to handle the workloads
  • .

'Delays in renewing security clearances for industry personnel and others who are doing classified work can lead to a heightened risk of national security breaches,' the report said.

DOD responded that it is considering several initiatives to reduce the backlog, including a phased re-investigation process and a single adjudicative facility for industry clearances.

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