Secrecy News

Backlog of Security Clearance Investigations Declines

After years of cumulative and seemingly irreversible growth, the backlog of pending security clearance investigations declined in the last three months in response to new policy guidance.

Since June, the National Background Investigation Bureau has reduced its background investigation inventory from 725,000 cases to 657,000 cases, according to a new quarterly report on security clearance policy. “Reductions are expected to continue as policy changes are further implemented.”

The backlog of pending investigations had increased from about 190,000 in August 2014 to more than 710,000 in February 2018. As recently as last March, the Government Accounting Office said that “NBIB leadership has not developed a plan to reduce the backlog to a manageable level.”

But that was then. Now, the new quarterly report says, background investigations are on track to be reduced to “a steady and sustainable state” by March 2021.

The decline is attributed to “thoughtful, risk-based modifications to the background investigation process” as well as to a significant increase in the number of investigators. “NBIB increased the capacity of its investigative workforce from 5,843 Federal and contractor investigators on October 1, 2016 to over 8,400 Federal and contractor investigators today,” according to a new NBIB report obtained by ClearanceJobs.com.

Much remains to be done. A June 2018 deadline for producing “updated standards for denying, suspending, and revoking Federal credentials” was missed, the quarterly report said.

An efficient and judicious security clearance system excludes persons who might pose a threat to national security. But an inefficient and backlogged system excludes qualified persons who cannot wait a year or longer for a clearance. In this way, a poorly performing clearance system may itself pose a threat to national security.