Obtaining Security Clearance

Security and Suitability Process Reform

On 30 April 2008 the Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team (JSSRT) issued its Initial Report in response to the President’s 5 February 2008 memorandum on Security Clearances.  The membership of the JSSRT is basically the same as the group that has been working since spring 2007 to completely reinvent the federal security clearance process.  The President’s memo directed that the group present a proposal to not only modernize the security clearance process, but to also integrate the clearance processes for national security, employment suitability, and access to federally controlled facilities.

Although the Initial Report presented a reform proposal as directed; it provided little information on what has been accomplished since spring 2007.  With the exception of eAdjudication and Automated Records Checks (ARC), which were both developed by the Defense Personnel Security Research Center before spring 2007 as the Automated Decision Support”ADS and the Automated Continuing Evaluation System ACES, the report merely outlined reform concepts and strategies.

It is possible that more concrete information about the progress being made on clearance reform can be found at the report’s technical appendix, but it has not been made available to the public.  On Thursday, 22 May, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee will have a hearing to look at progress in improving the security clearance process.  Perhaps more concrete information about the status of the reform initiative will be presented then. Is this finally the action needed, or just more talk?

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Last September DNI McConnell told congress that “We have (in conjunction with DoD) designed a transformed clearance process and developed a plan to assess the validity of this process.” Congress included a clause in the 2008 Defense Appropriate Act requiring ODNI & DoD to implement a new security clearance process “demonstration project” by July 2008, report to congress on the results of the demonstraton project by August 2008, and validate the process by January 2009.

    What was significant to me was the DNI’s use of the present perfect tense–“have designed. . . and developed.” Whereas the cover letter to the Initial Report used the words, “…the following near term actions will be initiated immediately: developing…, initiating…, developing…, and developing…”

    Well, they have two months. We’ll have to wait and see.

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    Mr Henderson,

    two months and counting. If there will be significant changes, I think they should be getting it into the field soon. We all know changes are coming–but nobody really knows the extent.

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    On 2 May I requested a copy of the “technical appendix” to the 30 April “Initial Report.” On 22 May I received a reply indicating, “Currently, the Technical Appendix is in its final stage of approval. . . .” I still haven’t received a copy or even an email telling me that the appendix is finished. There was no indication in the Initial Report that the technical appendix had not yet been finalized. The email I received indicated that I would be sent a copy of the appendix (which is unclassified but FOUO) after it is approved, but I doubt it, since FOUO is not releasable to the public.

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    Oops, perhaps I should have asked my question here instead of in the other thread. Is it true that the SF-86 will be replaced by an online form, and that some questions will be added while other ones that are currently on the form will be dropped completely? Thank you in advance for your reply.

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    Mr Henderson,

    Funny how nobody actually performing the job has any idea what to expect. I talked to some Fed OPM folks yesterday and they are also confused. They are working about 3 cases each, while I have usually anywhere from 30-60 cases at all times as a contractor. Are we heading to the old DSS folks being sent possibly to the DoD, making a full-circle? Amazing we have a change coming, however not released. At a minimum, the change should hit the street now, so all of us can get whatever new training we need out of the way–if it’s required. What say you!!!!

  6. Avatar

    I’ve seen and heard some different stories from both sides of the arguement about changes and time frames.

    As far as Adjudication is concerned, I watch or see Agency “X” (for anonymity) put out or tell people regularly that adjudication takes, on average, 10-20 days.

    At the same time internal discussions in the same agency say it takes 240-365 days for adjudcation.

    So…someone is dressing up some numbers here.

    For the record, last friday I saw my record longest decision. It took Agency “X” SEVEN (7) years from closure of investigation until adjudcation. It sat for so long that they initiated an RSI, to get current information because the investigation was so old.

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    Three cases each. That must be nice. The lowest number of cases I had assigned to me once was 18 and that was at the end of the month. The next day I was back up to 30+.

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    The SF86 has been available as an online form (eQIP) for a few years. Prior to that it was available as an electronic form that was transmitted (EPSQ). The SF86 is currently in the final stages of a major revision that was started 2 years ago, but the recent reinvention of the clearance process will probably change the current revision of the SF86 before or shortly after the revision is finalized.

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    Mr. Henderson:

    Is it possible for you to post any comments about what will be entailed in the major revision of the SF86 or the larger revision of the clearance process that you mentioned above? The change to the question about mental health treatment is one change I have heard about, and it seems like a very positive thing, but that is all I have heard so far. Thank you also for creating this great blog. It really demystifies what sometimes seems like a very confusing process.

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    I think DNI and DOD are still working on the design of the new investigations, so don’t expect any training until next year. I too have heard that the FISD investigators are very low on cases. This could be just a problem with reduced case openings (there has been a big drop in the number of new cases). It may be that the old cases (those that are part of what’s left of the backlog) were mostly assigned to contractors long ago and it’s too difficult to “unassign” them and reassign them to FISD. I don’t think OPM can react very quickly to changes in case openings. There is probably some computer algorithm for assigning cases and OPM is hoping that things will work themselves out on their own without having to reprogram the computer.

    Until the JSSRT decides/recommends who will be in charge of security clearances, it’s hard to say who will actually do the investigations. I think OMB would like to backout of any involvement in this mess. DoD is the 800 pound gorilla, but they decided 4 years ago that they didn’t want to be involved in security investigations. DHS is the logical agency but they are so disorganized, moving the function to them would be a major mistake. Just because OPM was named the “Suitability Executive Agent” doesn’t mean that they can’t continue to do both suitability and security investigations. What’s really needed is one new agency to do all the investigations and one new CAF to do all the adjudications, suitability and security including collateral and SAP—but it will never happen.

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    Mr Henderson,

    My 2 cents–I surely hope DHS does not put their hands on this. As far as the CAF–who is putting the new one at Meade? I will say, I have been on the OPM contract only 4 years and their is no process I know of so confused in its’ purpose and execution. The field side of this could be fixed within months if not weeks. But, as long as everyone blames everyone else, no gains will be made.

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    I hear ya–I would be trying to figure out what to do Tues-Fri with only a few cases to work. I have just went under 100+ items since 10/2007. Felt good to go to double digits, but that is short-lived as I will be back over 100+ again next week. To think they are getting paid GS-12 pay for 2-3 cases. I’m betting we have the same bosses.

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    Mr Henderson

    What do you make of this:

    Security Executive Agent: A new role outlined in the EO and will consolidate security clearance responsibilities that are currently spread out among diverse members of the security community.

    Is this giving more authority to someone?