Security Clearance Process

NBIB Director Provides Latest Clearance Processing Updates

Charlie Phalen, Director of the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB), provided security professionals and industry leaders attending the Intelligence & National Security Alliance Summit with updates to current security clearance and background investigation processing timelines. According to a post by Federal News Radio, among the various topics covered were: E-Application (replacement for E-QIP); current investigation backlog; unauthorized disclosures; revising adjudicative standards; and interim clearances.

Regarding the current investigation backlog, Phalen stated that the current backlog stands at 700,000 (300,000 of those being initial investigations), which actually decreased a bit over the summer. Phalen also indicated that investigations for Secret clearances are now running at an average of 4 months to close while those for Top Secret are taking 10 months. Keep in mind, these are the ones initiated this year, not the ones that have been languishing stuck in the system for up to two years.

Here is some good news for potential applicants who do not yet have a security clearance. The NBIB and Defense Security Service (DSS) are pushing a new line of thought towards changing the requirement for employers to have already made a job offer before the clearance process is started and instead, are looking at potentially using more interim clearances at the secret level, or at least starting the process for someone’s clearance before they are officially on a payroll. Of course, the risks associated with granting interim clearances are increased, as noted by DSS Director Daniel Payne, when access is granted to individuals who have criminal or trustworthiness issues that aren’t uncovered in the initial screening and come to light later on in the process.


  1. Director Payne’s comments are fascinating. There’s a counter-argument to them (I know @lindy.kyzer posted about this) but we need to acknowledge that kind of stuff happens because we let it get to that point. We can do better.