The total number of employees and contractors holding security clearances for access to classified information at the Department of Defense dropped by a hefty 900,000 between 2013 and 2016 — or 20% of the total cleared population at DoD. At the start of the current Fiscal Year, DoD had a remaining 3.7 million cleared personnel.
These data were presented in the latest quarterly report on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform, 1st quarter, FY 2016, published last month.
Importantly, this was a policy choice, not simply a budgetary artifact or a statistical fluke. A reduction in security clearances is a wholesome development, since it lowers costs and permits more focused use of security resources. It also increases pressure, at least implicitly, to eliminate unnecessary security classification restrictions.
However, reductions in clearances appeared to be stabilizing over the past year, with the elimination of around 100,000 clearance holders who did not have access to classified information, and an increase of around 100,000 cleared persons who did have such access.
Meanwhile, the Insider Threat program is being slowly implemented across the government. The Department of Defense expanded its “Continuous Evaluation” capability — providing automated notification of financial irregularities or criminal activity, for example — to cover 225,000 employees, up from 100,000 last year. The Department of State also initiated its own Continuous Evaluation pilot program.
Overall, the Insider Threat program faces continuing hurdles. “Many departments and agencies are discovering challenges with issues such as organizational culture, legal questions, and resource identification, to name a few,” the latest quarterly report said.