In preparation for its full report in 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued a preliminary assessment of the “timeliness and quality of the DOD’s personnel security clearance program.” It’s part of a project the agency has been working on since last February.
In a brief provided to Congressional committees on December 19, GAO said it placed DOD’s personnel security clearance program on its high-risk list in 2005 and continued that designation until 2007—the most recent update—because of “a variety of problems including delays and incomplete documentation of initial top secret clearances.”
Well, that’s reassuring.
In response to the dismal findings, and as a measure to attempt security clearance process reform, a group was formed in June 2007 called the Joint Reform Team—comprising members from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), DOD, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Joint Reform Team issued an implementation plan this December to guide ongoing clearance reform efforts. The plan includes several specific metrics: timeliness metrics for various components of the clearance process, metrics for both investigation and adjudication quality and initial steps to measure clearance reciprocity. “Still much remains to be done to implement the reforms and sustain the recent progress of the Joint Reform Team,” GAO said.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) commented on GAO’s briefing report…and partially disagreed with its assessment. He stated that “while [GAO’s] observations of the timeliness and quality of the DOD personnel security program are fair,” he didn’t share the same concerns raised by GAO. Likewise, when OPM reviewed the draft report, it didn’t concur with GAO’s observations concerning the completeness of the documentation of initial top secret personnel security clearance investigations.
One particularly unnerving observation made by GAO is that the “vast majority” (87 percent) of OPM-provided investigative reports which DOD adjudicators used to grant initial top secret clearances in July 2008 were “missing some required documentation.” OPM heartily disagreed, saying the missing forms “do not affect the adjudicative process and are not required elements of the investigation report.” A point with which GAO disagreed, of course. All documentation is required. Hence the word “required.”