OMB sets dates for agencies to resolve security clearance logjam

The Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to take several steps aimed at reducing a growing backlog of personnel clearance cases, including using an updated electronic verification system by March 2006 that will keep track of security clearances across the government.

In a recent memo

Reducing the security clearance backlog is a top priority after OPM'responsible for performing security checks for all civilian agencies'in February 2005 started processing background investigations for the Defense Department.

OPM director Linda Springer told a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia in November that her agency was processing approximately 404,000 background checks governmentwide, and OMB's Johnson said his office was working with OPM to reduce a backlog that some have estimated to be as high as 300,000 federal employees and more than half a million contractors as quickly as possible.

Additionally, the Government Accountability Office told Congress that the administration's plan for addressing the problem was a good start, but lacks details and deadlines on discrete actions it will take.

In his new memo, though, Johnson outlined a series of steps and deadlines that address one substantial burden on background investigators'reciprocity. By reducing investigations of personnel that already have security clearances, officials hope the policy will alleviate some of the significant backlog, he said.

'A significant part of this reform is ensuring that background investigations are conducted to grant new security clearances only when they are actually required,' Johnson wrote.

By March 31, agencies must start making daily updates to the revised CVS, which now lets agencies differentiate between those personnel that need additional clearance and those that do not.

At that time, agencies also must update the existing CVS entries to delineate which individuals have taken polygraph tests so that those employees will not have to take another one if they are being considered for a higher clearance level.

Agencies must tell OMB by April 1 how they are progressing with the deadlines and the administration will issue a report a month later detailing the results.

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