Background Investigations

Clearance Process Reform Status and Current Metrics

During the bi-annual National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee (NISPPAC) meeting held last month James Onusko, Deputy Assistant Director for the NBIB, provided attendees from various government agencies and private industry with an update on the efforts to reduce the clearance investigation backlog. Onusko stated reform efforts were underway and that “by the end of the year the NBIB will have hired approximately 580 new investigators (civil servant and contractors), contracted to four companies performing investigations, and has implemented more aggressive oversight of contractor performance.” He also touched upon something that I had not heard of before The NBIB is replacing the e-QIP application with a new software application called e-App. This new application will purportedly have the capability to collect and mitigate more information during the initial investigation process resulting in a more efficient expenditure of field investigator resources.

When queried by security professionals about current updated timelines for clearance investigations, Onusko declined to provide a hard number, but rather deflected by saying the use of new tools such as greater capacity for volume, workforce management initiatives, automation and a new “smart” system would help to decrease the backlog.  The unspoken elephant in the room loomed large and it seemed quite obvious from reading the meeting notes that many security professionals across the government were skeptical with the answers coming from the NBIB, especially after Onusko’s claim that the NBIB was prepared to receive the mass number of clearance cases currently being metered by DSS upon receipt. This skepticism seems well-founded based on the current performance timeliness metrics provided by DoD, DOE, NRC, and the Intelligence Community agencies which show across the board increases in the number of days it takes to grant a clearance.


  1. Does this mean even more nit-picking, second-guessing, and generally harassing investigators?

    If anything, they need to provide more realistic performance metrics to allow investigators to do a quality job. You’ll never clear the backlog with high turnover in the contract investigator workforce due to highly stressful working conditions for low pay.

  2. sbusquirrel–You are probably right. Nitpicking is likely to continue, realistic metrics will remain an illusion, time will be squandered while reviewers major on minor issues at the expense of real world adjudicative concerns.

  3. Any idea when DOD is going to implement the 5 year reinvestigation for secret clearances? Seeing as every officer, and some enlistees have secrets, I imagine it’s going to make any existing backlog exponentially worse.

  4. No word has been put out regarding when DoD and DSS will move forward with implementation. Many other government agencies are already there. I don’t imagine it will be anytime soon given the current environment. Once continuous evaluation monitoring gets fully incorporated at all levels it will likely be the stop gap for now.