Background InvestigationsObtaining Security Clearance

Security Clearance Backlog Ending – Do You Agree?

This new article details that the end of the federal government’s security clearance logjam is finally in sight, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Kathy Dillaman, associate director for OPM’s Federal Investigative Services, said that 80 percent of OPM’s initial investigations of applicants are being finished in less than 70 days. That’s down from 80 percent in 121 days in fiscal 2006, and on its way to reaching the congressionally mandated goal of finishing 90 percent in 40 days or less.

Hmmm… Guess the OPM hasn’t read the posts on this blog recently. Later on in the article, a number of lawmakers accuse OPM of sugarcoating the numbers. The report doesn’t really detail what OPM has been doing to make these radical changes.

What do you think? Based on your experience, has the security clearance backlog lessened?

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Interesting, and based on my experience, it may be true. It took 19 months total to get my final secret (I did not get an iterim), but the time from my interview to the granting of the clearance was less than one month. I’m not sure when they actually started the investigation, but that means adjudication only took a couple weeks. It seems like once they start working, they are very fast.

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    Terry – Even if the adjudication phase was speedy, 19 months is definitely at the top end of the range for final clearance awards.

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    After looking at all the published stats, it seems that OPM has made significant improvements in processing 80 percent of initial investigations. For the unfortunate 20%, who knows if their situation is better or worse than last year.

    The 70 days quoted by Dillaman is somewhat meaningless for a person undergoing a “Standard” SSBI, because almost all of the cases done within 70 days are NACLCs and possibly a few Priority SSBIs. Additionally, the “70 days” represents only the investigative time and does not account for the processing time before and after the investigation.

    It also seems that OPM has improved their processing time primarily by hiring a large number of investigative personnel. Dillaman stated her workforce doubled in size to 9,400 since 2004.

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    My SSBI was re-started 11/2006. Since then i have not heard from any investigators nor have my family or friends been interviewed. I must be in that 20%..

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    I had my first interview in July which was 3 month after I was offered the position. However I just got my interim in Sept and still waiting on the final clearance. Only a handful of people have been interviewed and that was in July. So I have to agree about being in that 20% group.

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    As an FSO I see the backlog moving very, very slow. I commend OPM for their fast response and hard work on the new requests, but come on! These employees and contractors are haveing a hard time filling positions when we can’t get our current people cleared. Many of them were submitted 18 months ago and not a peep from 1 OPM investigator.
    Please work harder on the backlog.

  7. Avatar

    It took two and a half years to get mine. That includes resubmitting it twice because it was lost somewhere in the paper mill.

  8. Avatar

    Dear Editor;

    I don’t know what the lady is talking about. I work on projects for the TSA. My applicaton for Top Secret has been in since April of 2007 and the only thing that OPM managed to do was to ask for another fingerprinting. I should have had my interim two months ago.

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    Standing in for OPM, it’s not only OPM that has a handle in the security clearance process but also it depends on the adjudicators of the requesting agencies as they are the ones who make the final decision and grant the actual clearance. It also depends on the Security office of the hiring agency to make sure that all of the required paperwork and additional information has been supplied so that OPM can actually get started. I was offered a position in Sept. and I begin employment in April. That’s only 8 months. While this may be in the better scenarios, I think OPM is doing a lot better than they used to do.

  10. Avatar

    the backlog will only clear up when every agency stops thinking that every employee needs to have a complete background investigatyion. realistically not everyone requires to be cleared at the levels the supervisors think they should be. I would call this empire building because the more cleared employees I have to supervise or process or whatever the better justification to increase my budget, my grade, or pick a subjecy or field. Someone needs to make a national level decision on what occupations require clearances and at what level (in DOE for example can a L be just as effective as a Q if both will never come into contact with material above a L level) It seems the answer here is get them a Q which increases the time spent waiting for a clearance.

  11. Avatar

    Well, I had a TS-SCI for about 25 yrs while in the Air Force. Got out and let it lapse. Now I’m back as a contractor. Submitted for a secret while on a short term contract and the head hunting co didn’t even submit it – despite their assurances otherwise. Moved to USDA and it got caught up in the slowdown for over a year. Moved to a USMC contract and it got kicked back due to the 7 to 10 year housing/job change. Once resubmitted, got my interim in days, but now the USMC security officer won’t let me into our facility because my wife is a brit… Forgotten what an orwellian experience the clearance drill can be.

  12. Avatar

    It took over two and a half years to get my periodic reinvestigation completed to find out that OPM totally messed up my information in the government JPAS system. It’s unfortunate and they are allowed to make some mistakes, but not only did it take months to complete the PR, but now I’m being told it will take months to get my records cleaned up. It is utterly appauling and unacceptable.

  13. Avatar

    It took 2 years for my TS to come through and that was with a prior clearance that was out of date. Not too mention I had to resubmit because they lost my package. There are several people in my unit that are over 2 years and waiting, and we are constantly have to resubmit because they stop at Secret, lose fingerprints, etc… We have had a few people given interims to work and then 18 months in they are denied Secret. What is up? Who is doing the local agency checks that let these guys in? I have noticed once the investigators are done the package sits somewhere in adjudication for 3 to 6 months. The process is slow and messy. No wonder the FBI and CIA won’t take clearances from certain agencies.

  14. Avatar

    Having an investigation backlog cleared up will only bring things about 50% to resolution. What everyone is forgetting here is the ADJUDICATION BACKLOG. After the investigation is completed, adjudication can take another 6-9 months. Pouring an increasing rate of completed investigations into the adjudication funnel will have them screaming. Adjudication will be up to its proverbial neck. Where is the extra effort, the additional manpower, coming from to speed adjudication.

  15. Avatar

    I had a TS/SCI clearance with a federal law enforcement agency for 12 years. I retired at the end of 2003. In January 2003 I submitted the paperwork for my five-year update. From January 2003 until December 2003 when I retired nothing was done to contact me to update my TS/SCI. Once you are gone from government service the clearance goes away after two years. Needless to say, mine went away sooner than two years due to the failure of my agency to do the update in a timely manner. Now, I am trying to get another clearance for a job with a contractor and have had the paperwork in the system since November 2005. Would you believe that after 12 years of TS/SCI and several agency updates I must start all over again from scratch as if I was a new employee. Unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Avatar

    Completion of even a PR can be frustrating. I submitted one in 2000 which ended up getting kicked out of the system when the investigating agency at that time took place. Not to worry, my current clearance at the time was acceptable. Resubmitted the PR a couple years later and again, it got kicked out of the system. Finally, the PR I submitted in 2006 went through very quicly. Why? I wrote at length in the available comments section and was able to include a case number for one of my prior submissions. All interviews were completed within 3 weeks of the submission. Unacceptable somehow does not sound like a strong enough term to describe the situation.

  17. Avatar

    I started the TS SSBI process in Nov 2004. Two restarts and the current file was initiated in 6/2005. Got my interview 2/2006. None of my people have been interviewed yet. We were notified a couple of months ago that my file has been reclaimed from a terminated subcontractor. All of that time it showed in process in the spiffy electronic system and of course, there is no way to ask why nothing is happening.

    In the May 2007, OPM documented their goals for new clearance processing. Not a word about those of us lost in the “over a year” backlog.

  18. Avatar

    Hmm, I put in the paperwork for a periodic reinvestigation of my TS clearance in April 2006. 18 months later, still not done.
    OTH my son in law received his iitial secret clearance in less than 6 months.

  19. Avatar

    Ms Dillaman talks a good game. If she says there are 9,400 investigators, there may be. However, maybe a third of that number are federal agents. The rest are contractors with little, if any, investigative experience. Because the contractors cannot provide the investigative quality required to pass the Personnel Investigations Processing System (PIPS) nazi’s grading system. They cannot complete the contractual obligations, and have to return work to OPM. The investigation itself then has to be reopened causing enormous delays.

    If the U.S. Government really wants to relieve the investigative bottle neck they need to accomplish several things. Take responsibility for the clearance process away from OPM, because OPM is not oriented towards the National Industrial Security Program or the Department of Defense. Formulate a clearance process that is realistic in risk management. Determine actual numbers of clearances needed, and maintain a stable investigative workforce consisting of a mix of federal agents and contractors.

  20. Avatar

    Recieving interims for Secert level clearnance are only taking 24-48 hours on the ones that I am processing. However the final Secrets are taking at least 18 months or more.
    There must be some confusion on the OPM side. I have had more than a few returned fingerprints that are sent in for processing. When they are sent in they recieve thier interim, then after they are sent in I recieve them back 8 months later and I have to restart the investigation and have the applicant then resign thier signature pages. Not sure what the confusion is but I believe it is due to the reason that the Hard Secrets are taking so long.

  21. Avatar

    12 Months and waiting…. for TS/SSBI some interviews are done….. 70 days !!! is that number real?

  22. Avatar

    I work as a contract investigator, and have been for about two years. I worked for one contractor that lost the contract and now for another that is busy trying to pet OPM’s ego and reduce the backlog for the DC area. However by reducing the backlog for DC, they are not allowed to recieve any new work for all other areas of the country. Which means that those cases are now going to be sent to other contractors or to the actual federal Investigators. I see a bottleneck! It has been my experience that it takes longer for the cases to reach the investigator than it takes for the case to be reviewed and ajudicated. I often see cases dating over 12 months before they reach my desk. Which creates another problem, now the cases have to be brought to date before they will meet the criteria for adjudication. Which sometimes is easy and sometimes is very difficult. The threshold is six months for update, so if anything new has happened in six months from filling out your case papers (sf86.sf-85, etc) we have to update it and complete those tasks as well. Most investigations that i have worked on are recieved at my desk, and completed with in at least two weeks, and maybe three for some strange case requiring an odd amount of leg work. Which means that for the other 12-24 months the cases are lost in transit, review, or adjudication. Its a long arduos process, and these cases have to pass through lots of hands even before the investigator sees them. One advantage that the federal investigators seem to have is the ability for their cases to be sent straight through to OPM review, rather than the in-house review of the contractors. The OPM staff seem to be better qualified and have the since to realize that typographical errors rarely relate to a terrorism plot! From my experience their cases seem to go througn much faster than ours. It is my opinion that way to many people are ending up with clearances. Lots of these subcontractors are trying to clear all their employees in an effort to pad their stats. We are going to have way to many TS cleared secretaries in the near future.

  23. Avatar

    I would have to say that this is another twisting of statistics. While the initial investigation backlog does seem to be decreasing this does not help with the folks that are in for PR’s and need a current investigation to work. Like for SAP, COMSEC, and SCI. Nor does it address the folks who are in for upgrades that are being treated as though they are PR’s and being held up because the focus is on the initials.

    You cant tell me that you can decrease, staff increase workload, and expect for all of the investigations to get done on time. Once the initials are caught up and they will switch focus to the PR’s I suspect we will see a return of the inital backlog. Its like a slinky back and forth.

    Many of these individual problems above stem from under-trained FSO’s, and their staff, not following through. So sorry you have a bad expeience but you may need to look at who is ‘helping’ you at your company.

    Most of these cases could be expidited with a phone call. They just need to know who to call and what to say. No interim since April — FSO should have called DSS and asked why. Most likely the case passed DSS and went straight to OPM. If it did then fax the archival copy with signature pages to DSS for an interim determination. You should have a yes or no on the interim withing a week or two of faxing the info (most likely much faster).

    No investigator contacting subject over 60 days — should have called OPM. Oh and Marc S please pick up a phone and help out your people. Call (724) 794-5612 x4693 this is the number for the OPM expidite team (subjects do not call they wont help you, only your FSO) have your SOI or SON number ready along with the subject SSN. If you dont know your SOI or SON then look in JPAS when you initiate an investigation and look it up. Its on the page where you put the company info ect. There is really no good reason that some of these cases are out over a year.

    If you as an FSO have people out for over the service period of the investigation and you have not contacted OPM you are just plain not doing your job. Make sure you check with your subjects to check if they are getting contacted if they are not and it has been an unreasonable amount of time call DSS check that the investigation is running if it is then call OPM and ask why the delay. If you dont get an interim determination within two weeks you should be calling DSS. Stay on top of your people and DSS and OPM will realize that there is a problem. Dont expect them to figure it out. You need to get to work. You enjoy that paycheck now earn it!

  24. Avatar

    Sounds like they could be on target with their numbers. I began my position on 1 Oct with a waiver and the investigation for a TS is in it’s final stages already.

  25. Avatar

    From my experience they certainly are not doing any better. I submit and track security clearances for over 1000 Soldiers and clearances are taking just as long as they ever were to get granted.

  26. Avatar

    Dan and Alex – interesting comments. Thanks for your valuable perspective.

  27. Avatar

    Alex, I have been in process for 2.5 years since 3/2005 for a SSBI/TS. Since then OPM has dropped my investigation 2x.
    The last time it was re-started was 11/2006. Still no interview or calls to my family/friends/collegues. Whats type of info can OPM give my FSO if/when she calls?
    Other then the “investigation is pending”. Also, according to JPAS my investigation is still in OPM’s lap and not DSS.

  28. Avatar

    I submitted my PR the first full week of August 2007. I had my interview in the second week of September. Even though it took me a while to get some supplementary info together for her, she turned in my report by mid-October.

    Is that ideal? No, but it’s pretty darn good, compared to my initial, which took over two years (March 2000 – May 2002). It’s now been turned over to the adjudicators, and I hope they hurry, b/c I’ve lost two job opportunities to agencies unwilling to let me work with a PR outstanding.

  29. Avatar

    The process is indeed faster for candidates w/o disqualify issues.
    For instance, my colleague
    Jan/Feb – SF86
    March – Interview
    July – SSBI complete
    Nov – TS granted

    5 ~ 7 monthes is norm, especially for new applicants.

  30. Avatar

    I’ve had my Secret since Aug 05, which only took 14 months to complete. I changed jobs in January 06 which requires a TS. I got a interim TS just 18 days after submittal. It has been almost 2 years, and one of my contacts had to be re-interviewed due to lost paperwork. I don’t see how OPM can claim that their are doing better either that I must be in the 20% also.