Deficient Clearance Investigations Returned to OPM
In September 2009 representatives of OMB, OPM, ODNI, and DOD testified before the Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs regarding security clearance reform. (See 16 Sep 2009 blog topic “Congressional Hearing On Security Clearance Reform.”) Post-Hearing Questions (and answers) for the record were recently published as an appendix to the hearing report.
One of the most interesting questions concerned the number of cases returned to OPM by DOD due to incompleteness. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper’s response on page 93 was illuminating:
In FY 2008, the Department returned approximately 188,483 cases and in FY 2009, the Department returned approximately 129,558 cases. Some cases are returned to OPM due to incompleteness or because they were missing critical expansion of developed issues. Other cases are returned or requested to be reopened because the subject of the case was deployed and could not be reached to complete the subject interview. However, in many instances where investigations received from OPM lack investigative scope items or other necessary information, adjudicators contact the subject or agencies themselves to obtain missing information in order to avoid timeliness delays or to avoid incurring additional costs. The Department does not currently have a means to track those cases.
In FY 2008, the Department was charged approximately $86,303,826 and in FY 2009, $63,104,471 for cases returned to OPM due to incompleteness or with requests for additional information.
Here is OPM Director John Berry’s response on page 90 to a slightly different question:
During FY 2009 of the 2,157,531 investigations closed, 1721 (.08 percent) were reopened due to quality concerns. Of the 1721 investigations reopened, 1362 (79 percent) were conducted by contractors, and 359 (21 percent) by Federal employees. The quality reopen percentages rates trend very closely to the actual workload distribution between contractor and Federal staff.
Clapper’s response addressed only DOD security clearance investigations, which totaled about 650,000 in FY 2009. Berry’s response included all agencies and all types of investigations, including single agency checks. Even if the majority of the cases returned by DOD to OPM were because the subject of the case was deployed, it’s still very difficult to reconcile DOD’s 20% return rate with OPM’s .08% “quality” reopen rate. And in how many cases did DOD adjudicators obtain information by themselves that should have been in the report of investigation?