Security Clearance Process

Congressional Hearing on Security Clearance Reform

On November 16, 2010 the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and representatives from the Department of Defense (DOD), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provided updated information on security clearance reform at a hearing before a Senate subcommittee,

The DNI stated that during the 4th quarter of FY 2010 the government-wide average processing time for the fastest 90% of initial security clearances was 53 days (42 days for investigations and 11 days for adjudication).  It is anticipated that the new Federal Investigative Standards (originally approved in December 2008, but never implemented) will be expanded from a 3-tier to a 5-tier structure.  A date was not given for when the revised standards would be finalized.

DOD, which issues nearly 90% of all initial security clearances, reported average completion times for the fastest 90% of initial DOD security clearances of 47 days for investigations and 9 days for adjudications during the 4th quarter of FY 2010.

OPM, which conducts 90% of all clearance investigations and services DOD and 11 other federal agencies, reported that its Federal Investigative Services Division currently has a combined federal and contractor staff of 9,100 investigators and support personnel.  A new revised Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF86), which was approved by OMB in March 2010, is scheduled to be implemented in December 2010.  Currently 98% of SF86 submissions are received via the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP).  OPM provided the following data for initial security clearance investigations:

FY 2007 FY 2008 FY 2009 FY 2010 IRTPA Goal 12/2009

Total Completed

695,513 709,402 645,924 623,454

Average time For 90%

115 days 64 days 41 days 39 days 40 days

Average Time for All

153 days 81 days 49 days 47 days

Note:  Apparently not included in DNI, DOD, or OPM data, is the 14 days allocated for “initiation time”—the time in days from the date of SF86 submission by the applicant to the receipt date of all information/forms required to conduct an investigation by the investigative service provider.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar


    I feel like I’ve done half of these myself!!!!!!!!!!

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    You and me both BW.

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    Just watched the archived webcast of the hearing and it looks like both Senators are not happy that OPM still uses a DOS based system.

    William: Have you gotten a sneak peak at the new SF-86? What additional questions and or changes are being made?

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    BW & Investigator:
    You must turning your cases around in record time. I was really surprised at the 47-day average for 100% of investigation done by OPM.

    Go to the blog topic I posted on 22 Apr 2010 and click on the link to “” When you get there you will find a link to “Final SF86 eQIP 10 Mar 2010.pdf” about 2/3 the way down the page. It’s a 453 page document of explanations and screen shots of the new eQIP version of the SF86.

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    The hearing video is awesome. Berry does nothing but suck the political teet of the Senator. They’re all in one big circle jerk about proud they are of each other. Not one mention about how the work has been completed on the backs of the Investigators. Typical.

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    Mr. Henderson

    In your blog on 21 november to BW investigator you mention 100 %
    of investigations done by OPM took 47 days. If this information is based on last weeks testimonies I understood that it was 90% not 100. If it was 100 I should have heard of my determination by now since as of Friday, the 19, my count is 49 days wit the assumption that my investigation opened on October 1st (based on the fact that I had my subj interview on October 14). I thought I was falling into the 10% catagory that do not complete within the 47 days.

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    If your investigation was opened on 10/1/10 that is day one of FY 11 so no stats have been posted on that yet.

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    Fed Inv

    You are dead on. They don’t see any sacrifice by us. I just got home and have not seen my family since Sept. As it stands, I will no doubt be sent TDY again within a month. Thought I left all this behind when I retired from the military. Rumor on the street is; you guys may be taking back a large piece of the pie soon. Any truth or is OPSEC an issue?

  9. Avatar


    We are turning these out quickly. Now that most areas have been caught up, turn around on the field end (At least for me) has been quick. I can usually (Not always) depending on how the case falls, close anywhere from 8-15 cases per week (Not all full cases). It’s nice to see cases that have critical dates as far out as Feb-Mar, 2011.

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    I also think things are better because it seems as if FINALLY people have been using Phase PR’s. In most cases, investigators can do these fully in a day.

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    I am fortunate as no TDY as of yet but that is because my area has a military base that is increasing by 89% in population due to the BRAC. Training for Quartermaster, Transportation and Ordinance are all going to be at Ft. Lee now so I am living down there. BW if you are TDY to the Central VA are let me know and we can grab lunch.

  12. Avatar

    The 47 days was cited in OPM’s prepared testimony (see the bottom row of the chart above). This represents only AVERAGE INVESTIGATIVE time for 100% of their cases. It does not represent end-to-end processing time. An average can take in a rather wide range of numbers. For a better idea of how long it takes, see my article posted at

    The data used in that article are about a year old now. There has been some improvement since then, so some adjustments are needed.

  13. Avatar

    BW, from what is being kicked around, I here we are supposed to take back approximately 40% of the work(exact amount unknown) <–that's a little ROI joke right there.

    But who knows, it changes all the time.

  14. Avatar

    BW, from what is being kicked around, I here we are supposed to take back approximately 40% of the work (exact amount unknown) <–that's a little ROI joke right there.

    But who knows, it changes all the time.

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    Oops, double post. My bad.

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    LOL @ Fed. Have you heard when this might happen Fed?

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    Too Funny–Love the ROI humor 🙂 That’s about what % I’ve been hearing as well. I may have to come over to the darkside eventually 🙂

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    No doubt–I’m guessing my next trip will be in your neck of the woods and we’ll hook-up. I’ve been TDY alot because we have hired too many folks and everything is caught-up. Don’t mind TDY’ing, just not back-to-back ones.

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    Haven’t heard any dates. Just for an FYI, the TDY is alive and well on the Fed side too. Several of us in the office, which includes myself are being sent off for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Looks like the family will be getting getting truck stop trinkets for presents this year. I wonder who will want Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits on tape?

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    I also just noticed I used ‘here’ instead of ‘hear’ in my double post. Looks like th Fed will hire any idiot off the street, you don’t even need a proper command of the English language.

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    Fed Inv,

    May I suggest the “Long Haul Cologne” as gifts, which can be found at the best truckstops in the country 🙂

    I just got my new “Pick” your TDY location list for the same timeframe as you–YEAH!!!!!

  22. Avatar

    To all the norms

    Happy Thanskgiving.

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    Happy Thanksgiving to you. And everyone else on this blog

    And thank you all for making this so useful.


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    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

  25. Avatar


    I’ll look for the ‘Long Haul,’ sounds perfect!

    Happy Thanksgiving all!

    Not sure if you all saw this, it’s been making the rounds. A little bit of humor for your holiday.

  26. Avatar

    Fed Inv

    No CRA’s here–feal frie to mak misteaks here 🙂

  27. Avatar

    Well mine is at 201 days as of today, and I’ve held a DoD (Army) clearance (Secret) since 1993. Had to redo my SF-86 to disclose a voluntary in-patient alcohol rehab treatment a year ago and related loss of job. No other mitigating legal, financial or domestic issues, and I’ve been active in a recovery program since. I don’t see how that alone would qualify as a “very serious or complex issue” or require higher level adjudication. It’s extremely frustrating.

  28. Avatar

    How would I get a job as an investigator?? Is it easy to get into. Is it enjoyable? Is the pay decent? Looking for thoughts from the ones doing it now.

  29. Avatar

    Well, looks like I’ll be going on a two year work production freeze.


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    Fed Inv

    Typical govt knee-jerk reaction to things. Nobody doing our jobs should have any pay cuts/freezes. The general public has no idea of the grueling metrics required in this job.

  31. Avatar

    OPM’s goal was to take over half of their work in 2005 when the contract was split up among several companies. USIS was supposed to only handle 12-13 percent of the work. This goal has never been reached. OPM normally handles between 24 to 30 percent of their workload – depending on how quickly their agents are closing cases. The rest are dumped on USIS, KPGS, and CACI.

    To become a background investigator, there are two intake models for the new guy. OPM or one of the contractors (usually USIS or Keypoint Gov’t services). Unless you have experience, you will need a 4 year degree, then pass the initial HR barriers. Google the websites to see if any openings are available in your area.

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    I’ve got the same question as Josh B, “How would I get a job as an investigator?? Is it easy to get into. Is it enjoyable? Is the pay decent? Looking for thoughts from the ones doing it now.”

    Also, is it easier to start as a Contractor then go Federal? USAJOBs is such a nightmare.

    Thanx for the info.

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    Umm, Riddy, I hate to tell you, your situation is both serious and complex, especially considering the recency.

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    For those looking to become an Investigator, I would give one piece of advice. Those that come into this job thinking they can work a Monday thru Friday, 9 to 5, are the worst performers and usually burn out the quickest. This job requires nights, weekends and an ability to not only think but work out of the box as well.

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    Could not have said it better myself Fed. When I did my detail to our training department I told all of the trainees in the classes the most important factors to being a good investigator are communication, organization, professionalism, flexibility and self discipline.

  36. Avatar

    The major problem with investigators in this position is that you simply can not teach flexibility and self discipline, you either have it or you don’t.

    No load slackers need not apply.

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    Fed, would you elaborate? I ask w/ sincerity, as I’ve heard of cases which involved DUIs, theft of Gov’t property, domestic abuse, etc… that were adjudicated favorably. How is my situation both serious and complex?

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    Maureen and Josh B

    Honestly, if you are young, this is no long-term career unless you are on the Federal side. With that said, I am in no way saying us contractors are not equally capable. What I mean by this is: only the Fed side has a pension and the benefits are better. It also will not take as long to see raises and advance. When I and Investigator started, promotions were much more frequent as the contract side was fairly new. I can honestly say, if I were offered the job today with new standards and promotion rates, I surely would have passed on this work. Either way good luck with what you choose.

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    Your type of case will always certainly take longer. It sounds like you are doing the right things, so hold on and try to be patient. When you have time on your hands, look at the adjudicative guidelines so you can possibly get a clearer understanding. Your case is not a death sentence, but will take time. Try not to compare your stuff to other incidents as this will just frustrate you. Also look at the DOHA final outcomes and see if a case matching yours is listed. I wish you luck and thanks for your service.

    B Dub

  40. Avatar

    You are on the money with that. If I was looking for work today and I came across the background investigator position with any contract company I would pass on it as well unless it was a last resort. I know this sounds bad Maureen and Josh but please think hard and look at all your options before you apply to any contract company as a background investigator.