Background InvestigationsObtaining Security Clearance

Survey: Backlog of Security Clearance Applications Still a Problem

An article in the Washington Business Journal on Friday, April 25, 2008 reported information from a survey of more than 100 government contractors, made by the National Defense Industrial Association and the Information Technology Association of America regarding security clearance processing.

“Businesses say the federal government has made some ‘modest progress’ on chipping away at the backlog of security clearances, but it still has a long way to go before the system for granting clearances meets the still-growing demand.”

One of the more interesting results of the survey was that 71 percent of the respondents said that “one or more agencies failed to recognize clearances already held by employees.”

What’s interesting is this recent OPM quote:

“Office of Personnel Management officials say that with recent improvements, most employees are now cleared in 120 days.”

Something doesn’t add up here.. Your thoughts?

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    120 days?!? Hah! Yes, someone definitely must have added 10 plus 10 and gotten an answer of 5.

    I work for a mid-sized government contracting company (between 1,000 and 5,000 employees), and we have NEVER seen someone’s clearance come back that quickly. I am no stranger to the security clearance verification and adjudication process. I realize that the time it takes largely depends on certain factors such as time spent overseas, personal travel to certain countries on the watch list, number and type of foreign contacts, etc. However, we have a guy who has been waiting THREE YEARS as of next month, and he still is only sitting with his interim secret. Of course, I ask our security office if we can contact DISCO or OPM about it, and they say “No! He gets it when he gets it!” This attitude has been promulgated by years of “security through obscurity” in the entire security clearance process. It’s as if their mantra is: “Don’t ask questions because that will just upset them (DISCO or OPM), and they’ll put your package back at the bottom of the stack!” Retribution just for trying to see where a clearance package is in the process???!???!?!? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Visibility into the process (mandated from above, perhaps through legislative pressure) is the only way to apply the necessary pressure on these organizations to work the backlog. Then, if they are not properly resourced, those issues should come to light, so they can be resolved. Let’s stop the sixth grade game of “if you bug me about your clearance, I’ll just ‘lose’ it for awhile.”

    I have a new hire who submitted his clearance paperwork a couple weeks ago. He is probably the most “ideal” candidate an employer could want with respect to eligibility for a security clearance. Other than a couple years in Germany when his family was stationed there with the Air Force in his youth, this guy has no marks against him: no foreign contacts, no other foreign travel except for a Caribbean cruise a few years back, never tried marijuana, and no felonies/arrests/etc… only a single parking ticket. We’ll see if this “near pristine” case gets through the investigation process in 120 days. He got his interim secret in a week, but that was probably academic given his clean background. I’ll update the blog on the status of how long it took.

  2. Avatar

    In my opinion the processing time has nothing to do with how easy a case someone is. It seems to be 100% random blind luck. I’d consider myself as “near pristine” as the above poster’s employee (except I didn’t live overseas) and it continues to take well over 120 days.

    Think about how great it would be to have your clearance in under 4 months if you’re clean. It’s certainly a wonderful fantasy world.

  3. Avatar


    Believe what you will about bothering folks, but if it were my case and it had been 3 years, you can bet I would be picking-up the telephone!!!!!!! There could be a million different reasons it’s not done–but I’m guessing none good enough to justify 3 years.

  4. Avatar

    3 years is way to long of a wait for a clearance.

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    It been one year so far for just suitability for an SF-85P to come through, and I already have a Public Trust clearance less than two years old with another agency. I’ve been on the job, doing it for almost a year still waiting with no interim clearance. What happen to Exec. Order 12968 uniform federal personnel security program? I’d like to know what agencies the 29% that did get transfers work with. How much does this cost tax payers to rerun the same information and process the same forms over again? Both of my SF-85P Public Trusts have included face to face interviews (with the same neighbors and friends 1 1/2 years apart) and Personal Interviews with me, all for a “7 year look back”? Why doesn’t OPM reign them back in and remind them the backlog is because of these repeat expenses?

  6. Avatar

    An employee with an existing security clearance (not including an interim clearance) who transfers or changes employment status is eligible for a security clearance at the same or lower level at the gaining activity without additional or duplicative adjudication, investigation, or reinvestigation, and without any requirement to complete or update a security questionnaire unless the gaining activity has substantial information indicating that the standards of Executive Order 12968 may not be satisfied.

    The “substantial information” exception to reciprocity of security clearances does not authorize requesting a new security questionnaire, reviewing existing background investigations or security questionnaires, or initiating new investigative checks (such as a credit check) to determine whether such “substantial information” exists.

    SO how are they conducting new investigations, if they are not authroized to request a new questionnaire, etc. from the transfer employee???
    Full “Declaration of Principles” seems pretty clear. It also states OMB wants to know about agency who choose to conduct one anyway.

    Everyone who falls under this “transfer” employee status subjected to a new investigation, should alert OMB to the added waste of resources and time delays for “REINVESTIGATIONS” of their current clearances.

  7. Avatar

    OPM brags on how they complete their investigations in a relatively short time. Well they may believe that they complete them, but they do not. There is a high number of investigations that have to be reopened due to incomplete investigations.