As conversation about the security clearance program changes, so do the numbers

As the Trump administration considers another round of major changes to the governmentwide security clearance program, key officials late last year approved 17 new initiatives they believe will reduce the size of the current backlog.

The initiatives are much needed, as recent data from Performance.gov shows how the backlog of pending investigatory work has ebbed and flowed over time and reached a peak of more than 700,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Top officials on the Performance Accountability Council met from August through December 2017 to agree on the 17 initiatives.

“Examples include guidance for temporary (interim) authorizations and pre-appointment waiver determinations, expanding the use of video teleconference technology and telephonic reference interviews, clarifying some requirements in the Federal Investigative Standards to improve efficiencies and expediting the deployment of the newly approved SF-85P,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote on Performance.gov.

Finding improvements to the security and suitability credentialing program is one of the 14 cross-agency priority goals the administration identified in the new President’s Management Agenda.

Specifically, the administration has also tasked the Office of Personnel Management and Office of the Director of National Intelligence with developing quality standards for making adjudicative determinations and with options to expand continuous evaluation and vetting programs across all government.

The administration is also interested in finding more opportunities to use shared services on the security clearance program, specifically for an unclassified information exchange, an automated system that determines a position’s sensitivity and risk level, and a program that develops background investigation reports.

Expanding the number of federal and contracted investigators is not among the administration’s key milestones to improve the security clearance program this year. The National Background Investigations Bureau has hired more investigators in recent years, but it hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.