State Department Fudged Clearance Timeliness Reporting
The Department of State (DS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released their findings on DS security clearance processes and discovered that agency officials used blanket estimates in reporting timeliness data to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) instead of the actual time. The DS is one of the agencies that has the authority to conduct its own federal background investigations and has the ability to complete overseas investigative work for other agencies as well. Annual reports to ODNI are mandatory regarding the timeliness of initial security clearance investigations. The OIG report indicated that the data submitted by DS had errors and there was no tracking process in place to ascertain actual processing timelines.
OIG auditors found the DS Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for processing security clearances, underestimated the timeframes for clearance investigation completion reported to ODNI from 2012-16 and that the DS case management system did not have the capability to track when an applicant certifies the SF-86 to the time the investigation is reviewed and initiated. Instead, DS reported a 22 day estimated timeline when it actually took up to 8 weeks for initiation of an investigation. It was also noted that adjudication phase reporting was inaccurate due to errors in data calculations. The OIG identified some of the causes for these inaccuracies: inaccurate data, undefined HR roles and responsibilities; lack of training and/or resources; and a large workload/number of clearance applicants. OIG recommendations to improve timeliness and accuracy of reporting included:
- implementing tracking processes from application initiation to investigation initiation to adjudication
- establishing clear responsibilities for HR personnel processing applications and provide adequate training
- conduct an analysis on requirements and ensure proper staffing levels are in place to process the workload
- reduce the number of clearances processed by assessing student intern position requirements
- analyze, determine the amounts, and recoup the cost of overseas investigative work conducted for other agencies