Security Clearance Process

DoD Rolls Out “Lines of Effort” to Reduce Investigation Backlog

During a recent Defense Security Service webinar DoD policy experts acknowledged the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) has made little or no progress to clear the current background investigation backlog inherited from OPM’s Federal Investigative Services. New approaches called “Lines of Effort (LoE)” are in the works.  Here is a brief summary of these efforts:

  • LoE #1 consists of improving end-to-end use of automation and continuous evaluation processes to drive efficiency, while at the same time, redesigning the vetting capabilities in the future.
  • LoE #2 (called the Blue Sky Team) is a collaborative effort with a panel of security experts from government, think tanks and commercial industry to develop processes that would incorporate state of the art technology and use a more holistic approach to evaluating trustworthiness and behavior patterns.
  • LoE #3 focuses on immediate actions using risk-based strategies to reduce the investigation backlog while mitigating the risk to national security.

While all of that sounds like a grand plan, what does it really mean? Here are latest numbers:

  • Current backlog of investigations at NBIB is 714K (424K of which are DoD)
  • Initial investigation completion (fastest 90%) is 324 days for Top Secret and 131 days for Secret

The whole situation reminds me of an old saying when cleaning house, “things gotta get worse before they get better.” On another note, I have previously posted that OPM has hired many new background investigators;  there is now a surge in job announcements for adjudicators. Meanwhile, applicants and current clearance holders patiently play the waiting game.


  1. “Initial investigation completion (fastest 90%) is 324 days for Top Secret and 131 days for Secret”

    OK, but a clearancejobs article ( ) posted on July 13, 2017, on this subject said:

    The processing time as of March 2017 for the fastest 90% of TS applications was 458 days and Secret/Confidential took on average 272 days for processing. (As reported by NBIB)

    I think most people would agree that the differences between 324/458 and 131/272 is a rather large discrepancy. Even the larger numbers seem somewhat suspect based on anecdotal, but voluminous, data.

    It is frustrating to be subject to an opaque system where nobody seems to be able to determine the current state of the system on which we rely. If we are already off by 100% or more on where we are currently (131 vs. 272 days for Secret/Confidential,) I doubt that any Lines of Effort initiative will do much to correct the issues and get us where we need to go.

  2. IIRC, the time listed for the fastest 90% of clearances is an average, which implies that many, if not most people take longer than the listed amount of time to be cleared. Also 298 days and counting since my investigation opened for a Secret clearance, I’m becoming rather skeptical of those numbers…

  3. Nice! Three new ways to get nothing done.

  4. I’m at 14 months and counting for a SECRET. It took six months from application to investigation. Another six months from investigation to an SOR listing some financial issues. Now pushing two months since my reply to the SOR.

    Of course, most of the SOR was BS. The only serious issues on the SOR have occurred because I am waiting for a clearance!