Security Clearance Process

Security Clearance Reform – Who Does It, Who Pays for It?

The long-awaited government report on the security clearance process has been released, and it offers a glimpse into the security clearance reforms we can expect to roll out over the next several months. It also leaves a few glaring omissions, including where the funds for the efforts will come from, and how new responsibilities will be delegated among the security clearance investigation and adjudication workforce.


The report noted reporting problems, including inability to access criminal records as well as failure to report potential issues.Current procedures require individuals to self-report issues, but little guidance is given to cleared professionals on what information should be reported. Federal hiring managers and contract supervisors are also given little to no guidance on how they should report potential issues.

Specific actions on records-keeping and reporting include establishing a reporting requirements policy. This policy will impact cleared workers and hiring managers, as the new requirements may include penalties for those who fail to follow the proper procedures.

Mental health and security clearances were also highlighted as an issue of concern, with the need to possibly update the SF-86 to better determine when mental health issues impair an individual’s ‘judgment, reliability and trustworthiness.’


The report also noted the need to revamp the periodic reinvestigation process. The report noted the success of the Department of Defense’s recent Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) pilot. 3,370 Army service members, civilian employees and contractors were included in the pilot, and 21.7 percent were found to have unreported derogatory information. Three percent had serious issues that resulted in suspension or revocation of their security clearance.

By October 2014 the pilot will be expanded to an additional 100,000 cleared professionals. By September 2014 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will develop capability to implement Continuous Evaluation (CE) for the most sensitive TS/SCI positions, with a full roll-out expected by 2016.


The report pointed to the massive growth in clearance holders post-9/11, and indicated that desk audits of cleared personnel are a next-step. While many have cautioned against pointing to the number of cleared personnel as the issue, OMB’s report was pointed in saying that 5.1 million clearance holders is too many.

The report also noted the backlog in periodic reinvestigations. Twenty-two percent of the TS/SCI population has outdated investigations. Resources are blamed for the backlog, and the report offered no clear solution for the resources problem. It did say that it will look to CE as a means of identifying at-risk populations.


Two topics largely missing from the report – the designation of responsibilities in the security clearance process, and the answer to the question of how continuous evaluation will be funded in an era of sequestration. Congressional security clearance reform efforts have largely blamed the current investigations process, with harsh criticism for contract security clearance investigators. The OPM report makes no recommendation to insource positions.

Perhaps most pointedly, it also makes no clear explanation for how to fund ACES or other CE programs. CE is seen as a mechanism to help the underfunded periodic reinvestigation program. But updated IT systems and new monitoring programs will cost money, and it remains to be seen how ACES will be funded. The costs for the Department of Defense alone are estimated to be $53 million. Other agencies are directed to prioritize automation requirements, but in a tight budget environment something will have to give in order to make CE a reality.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    First off, CE needs to be within a wholly new approach to BI to be effective. The old way of getting records and interviewing/deposing as if you’re making a civil court case has gotta go. It should be done like the FBI and counterintelligence and look for red flags and go from there. Deep Web searches need to be undertaken on all candidates submitting SF-86’s. Scrap the PA, FOIA, and an appellate process in BI. Put it all under some FISA provision and make the BI and adjudication process off limits to the general public. You want to know what you got turned down for that TS-SCI? Take it up with FISA court, Abdul. It’s amazing that you can be turned down for a job as a nurse or one of your job references gives derogatory info and you never get a chance to find out why or what was said. But in a “national security” background investigation for positions that could cause extremely grave harm to the U.S. If you screw up, you can get the names and comments of any derogatory info and even appeal the denial! Amazing stuff. The new BI process should have one operating principle: WWMSD (What would Michael Savage do?)

  2. Avatar

    Agree with Darrow AGAIN 100%. Couldn’t have said it better. It’s a totally broken process…

  3. Avatar

    Michael Savage?

    Good grief.

  4. Avatar

    Borders, language, culture. We need to cut the PC crap and put national security above everything else. U.S. military members like Major Hasan can be allowed to engage in radical jihadi activities and no one dare say anything or do anything for fear of PC-ism and personal career/professional interests. The way OPM BI’s are done now they are like traveling, non-judgmental psychotherapy. [In a Stuart Smiley voice] “Hi Mr. Subject, let’s talk about your issues in a judgment-free way. Let me be your friend, so I don’t run the risk of having you call up the OPM complaint line on me for making you feel uncomfortable in any way. Can we get started and develop a light-hearted rapport [beaming smile]?” Yeah, this is just national security. But if the government thinks you’re holding out a thousand bucks from them you don’t get all the niceties of an OPM national security investigation. Some stooge doesn’t sit in traffic and drive to meet you at your convenience. No. You have to drive down to meet the IRS when they decide. You go into their office. And you’ll get to experience their gangsta rapport. “Speak into my 9mm… b!tch,”

  5. Avatar

    You’re complaining about being civil to your Subject?


    Maybe we should start the interviews with an open handed slap?


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    More info on the giant leaps of progress planned for security clearance investigations:

    What ‘continuous monitoring’ means in the clearance context

    “Cleared individuals could file an updated form annually through a secure website, to provide a basis for automated checks. The self-reporting process would help provide a “clearance health” baseline for important information, and free up time for investigators to deal with the most important cases. The report’s authors advise making the annual updates mandatory, and advising cleared personnel of the serious consequences of submitting false information.”

  7. Avatar

    As there is news of a possible release of spy and traitor Jonathan Pollard to Israel it is good to remind people of his security clearance issues (something they need to change in the new BI):

    Passage from Wikipedia:

    While transferring to his new job at TF-168, Pollard again initiated a meeting with someone far up the chain of command, this time with Admiral Sumner Shapiro, Commander, Naval Intelligence Command (CNIC) about an idea he had for TF-168 and South Africa. (The TF-168 group had passed on his ideas). After the meeting, Shapiro immediately ordered that Pollard’s security clearances be revoked and that he be reassigned to a non-sensitive position. According to The Washington Post, Shapiro dismissed Pollard as a “kook”, saying later, “I wish the hell I’d fired him.”

    Because of the job transfer, Shapiro’s order to remove Pollard’s security clearances slipped through the cracks. However, Shapiro’s office followed up with a request to TF-168 that Pollard’s trustworthiness be investigated by the CIA. The CIA found Pollard to be a risk and recommended that he not be used in any intelligence collection operation. A subsequent polygraph test was inconclusive, although it did prompt Pollard to admit to making false statements to his superiors, prior drug use, and having unauthorized contacts with representatives of foreign governments. The special agent administering the test felt that Pollard, who at times “began shouting and shaking and making gagging sounds as if he were going to vomit”, was feigning illness to invalidate the test, and recommended that he not be granted access to highly classified information. Pollard was also required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

    Pollard’s clearance was reduced to Secret. Pollard subsequently filed a grievance and threatened lawsuits to recover his SCI clearance, and subsequently began receiving excellent performance reviews. In 1982, after the psychiatrist concluded Pollard had no mental illness, Pollard’s clearance was upgraded to SCI once again. In October 1984, after some reorganization of the Navy’s intelligence departments, Pollard applied for and was accepted into a position as an analyst for the Naval Intelligence Command.