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                                                 Union Calendar No. 591
110th Congress                                                   Report
  2d Session            HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                110-916

_______________________________________________________________________

   SECURITY CLEARANCE REFORM--UPGRADING THE GATEWAY TO THE NATIONAL
                           SECURITY COMMUNITY

    SUBMITTED BY MR. REYES, CHAIRMAN, PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON
                              INTELLIGENCE


[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


 November 20, 2008.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                               ----------
                         U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

79-006 PDF                       WASHINGTON : 2008















           SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT

                    ANNA G. ESHOO, California, Chair
RUSH HOLT, New Jersey                DARRELL ISSA, California, Ranking
C.A. ``DUTCH'' RUPPERSBERGER,            Member
    Maryland                         MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
MIKE THOMPSON, California            TODD TIAHRT, Kansas
PATRICK J. MURPHY, Pennsylvania      PETER HOEKSTRA, Michigan, ex
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas, Chairman,        officio
    ex officio
                Mieke Eoyang, Professional Staff Member
                Diane La Voy, Professional Staff Member
                    Josh Resnick, Research Assistant
                 Jamal Ware, Professional Staff Member

















                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------
                                                                   Page
Methodology......................................................     1
Summary..........................................................     1
Security Clearances in the U.S. Government.......................     4
Security Clearances in the Intelligence Community................     6
Long-Standing Congressional Concerns.............................     7
Views of Industry................................................     9
Requirements of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention
  Act of 2004....................................................    11
Implementation Authorities and Plans.............................    13
Assessing Performance Against IRTPA Requirements.................    14
Current Reforms: Issues for Oversight............................    20










                                                 Union Calendar No. 591
110th Congress                                                   Report
  2d Session                 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES           110-916

=======================================================================


   SECURITY CLEARANCE REFORM--UPGRADING THE GATEWAY TO THE NATIONAL
                           SECURITY COMMUNITY

                                _______


 November 20, 2008.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______


    Mr. Reyes, from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                              Methodology

    This report was prepared on the basis of transcripts and
statements for the record used in subcommittee hearings held in
open session, reports by the Government Accountability Office
and other publicly available materials. No classified material
was used in the preparation of this report.

                                Summary

    Security clearances, which are determinations that a person
is eligible for access to classified information, enable
millions of Americans to serve our country in the arenas of
national security, homeland security, and foreign policy. The
number of federal government employees and contractors
requiring clearances has expanded in recent decades, especially
in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
As a result, backlogs developed and the length of time for
processing security clearances grew. In turn, greater awareness
of the need to share information and promote collaboration
across government agencies drew attention to the cumbersome and
outdated nature of the process for granting security clearances
and for ensuring that clearances granted by one agency permit
access to the others.
    Under Title III of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism
Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) assumed responsibility for the majority of
security clearance investigations, previously performed by the
Department of Defense (DOD); and the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) became the entity responsible for security
clearance policy and procedures across the U.S. Government.
    Throughout the 110th Congress, the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence's Subcommittee on Intelligence
Community Management (the Subcommittee or ICM) has monitored
the implementation of reforms of the security clearance process
embodied in IRTPA. It has focused its attention on the
Intelligence Community, whose personnel hold approximately 10
percent of the total number of security clearances. The
Subcommittee's oversight has built on over 25 years of
congressional concerns about security clearances, including
numerous studies by Congress's Government Accountability Office
(GAO).
    A key feature of Title III of IRTPA, which aims to bring
greater efficiency, speed and interagency reciprocity to the
clearance process, is the centralization of responsibility. The
following is a summary of how the requirements of Title III
have been met.

Centralization of policy oversight and management

            Assessment: Actions have been taken, but progress has been
                    mixed
    In 2005, President George W. Bush selected OMB to be
responsible for policy and oversight of the security clearance
process. OMB, in turn, delegated to OPM responsibility for
security clearance investigations, to ``maintain security
clearances, and to integrate security clearance information
across all agencies.'' \1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ IRTPA. Sec. 3001(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In April 2008, the Administration announced a change to
that structure, designating a collaborative effort consisting
of representatives of DOD, OMB, the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence (ODNI), and OPM, called the Joint
Security and Suitability Reform Team. The structure, formalized
by executive order in June 2008, creates a Performance
Accountability Council to achieve the goals of security
clearance reform. This Council, to be chaired by OMB's Deputy
Director for Management, includes the DNI as the ``Security
Executive Agent'' responsible for security clearances
government-wide; and affirms the Director of OPM as responsible
for the federal government's workforce.
    While both the old and new structures seem to meet the
law's requirements, the first structure did not demonstrate
concrete results towards several of the IRTPA's requirements.
While it is too early to evaluate the success of the new
structure, it appears that steps have been taken to improve the
system.

Single agency for investigations

            Assessment: The requirement has been partially met
    This provision, which requires that a single agency shall,
``to the maximum extent practicable,'' be responsible for
conducting security clearance investigations, has been
partially implemented. The statute also requires this entity to
integrate security clearance applications, investigations, and
determinations into a database, and ensure security clearance
investigations are conducted under uniform standards and
requirements.
    For practical purposes, OPM conducts most security
clearance investigations in the government, but few of the
investigations for the Intelligence Community. OPM has not met
the requirements regarding databases. The DNI, as the new
Security Executive Agent, is undertaking a review of the
investigative standards and adjudicative guidelines.

Interagency reciprocity

            Assessment: The standard set forth by IRTPA has not been
                    met
    Although the law requires that ``all security clearance
background investigations and determinations . . . shall be
accepted by all agencies,'' policy interpretations by OPM and
the DNI, and language in various executive orders and
Administration reports, have been inconsistent. Most
problematic is that the Administration still does not measure
progress toward full reciprocity. In practice, security
clearance adjudications are not fully accepted reciprocally
across the U.S. Government, and anecdotal information shows
that even among the elements of the Intelligence Community
there are impediments and sometimes lengthy delays in granting
clearances to employees detailed from one agency to another.

Integrated, secure database

            Assessment: The requirement has not been met
    The law calls for a database ``into which appropriate data
. . . shall be entered from all [emphasis added] authorized
investigative and adjudicative agencies.'' \2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ IRTPA. Sec. 3001(e).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    OPM and DOD databases have been linked, but they do not
include data about clearances that are not investigated by OPM,
such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department
of State. Neither do they include Intelligence Community data,
which is held separately.
    In practice, neither the OPM nor the Intelligence Community
has enabled the Administration to respond to questions from the
Subcommittee regarding the number of security clearances that
are held or how the number has grown.

Evaluate the use of available technologies

            Assessment: This requirement has been met
    The law requires that, by December 2005, OMB submit a
report to the President and Congress on the results of an
evaluation of the use of available information technology to
expedite clearance processes. No such report was produced.
    However, the Joint Reform Team did oversee a series of
demonstration projects to evaluate new information technology
(IT) services for the clearance process. The demonstrations
included evaluations of paperless applications, fingerprint
scanners, computerized interviews, automated record checks,
automated reinvestigations, and automated adjudications. An
integrated, end-to-end pilot is supposed to be conducted in
coming months. These efforts were reported to Congress in 2008.

Reduce the length of the clearance process

            Assessment: The interim standards for timeliness that were
                    to have been met by December 2006 were met on
                    average across all the agencies processing security
                    clearances
    IRTPA set interim standards for timeliness which required
that determinations be reached on at least 80 percent of all
applications within an average of 120 days after receiving the
application. The Administration reports that the interim
standard was met in the first quarter of FY 2007. The data
provided suggest that this standard was not met by each agency,
and its presentation creates the best possible picture from
what is, upon closer inspection, a mixed record. Nevertheless,
the improvement in timeliness achieved by late 2006 was a
remarkable achievement, particularly by OPM, which had
inherited large backlogs of clearances to be processed when it
assumed responsibility for the vast majority of the
government's security clearances in 2005.
    IRTPA standards require that by December 2009, 90% of all
applications shall be processed within an average of 60 days.
This continues to pose a significant challenge for almost all
agencies.
    The standards for timeliness set forth in IRTPA aggregate
Top Secret (TS) level clearances with those at the Secret (S)
or Confidential (C) level. More meaningful measures of progress
would consider timeliness of the TS clearances separately.

Reporting

            Assessment: The Administration has met the requirements for
                    annual reports required by IRTPA's Section 3001(h)
    The Administration has missed many of the deadlines set in
IRTPA, but has met the requirement or made progress towards the
goals since the deadline. Although progress in security
clearance reform has been slow, the Subcommittee remains
committed to ensuring that the security clearance system fully
accomplishes the mission set forth by the IRTPA. The
Subcommittee intends to consider legislation early in the 111th
Congress that would spur security clearance reform by requiring
agencies to report to Congress on key metrics of the security
clearance process.

               Security Clearances in the U.S. Government

    A security clearance is a determination that a person is
eligible for access to classified information. For millions of
Americans, at least 2.5 million of whom are military service
members, DOD civilian employees, legislative personnel or
industry personnel working for DOD and most of the other
federal agencies,\3\ security clearances are the gateway to
national service and employment in the arenas of national
security, homeland security, and foreign policy.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ This estimate excludes personnel in the Intelligence Community,
Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S.
Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony Before the
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal
Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate ``PERSONNEL CLEARANCES: Key
Factors for Reforming the Security Clearance Process.'' GAO-08-776T.
May 22, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    National security information is classified according to
its level of sensitivity, which is determined by the amount of
national security damage that its disclosure might cause.
Determinations of access to classified information, or security
clearances, are granted according to the same three levels:
Confidential (C), Secret (S), and Top Secret (TS). Access to
``sensitive compartmented information'' (SCI) is provided as a
way of managing certain national security programs in the
Intelligence Community, while the designation ``Special Access
Program'' (SAP) is used in the DOD.
    The security clearance process consists of three stages:
application, investigation, and adjudication. In most cases,
the first stage consists of completing an application form
known as an SF-86. Stage two, the investigation, is currently
done by sending investigators to the field to interview
neighbors, co-workers, and others. Since 2005, OPM has
conducted investigations for DOD and all agencies except those
within the Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland
Security and Department of State. These entities conduct their
own investigations. Stage three, adjudication, occurs when the
agency reviews the results of the investigation to make a
determination of fitness for a security clearance. The
clearance process also includes reinvestigations every five
years for persons holding TS and TS/SCI clearances, every 10
years for Secret level clearances, and every 15 years for
Confidential clearances. Longer and more detailed
investigations are required for access to the TS and TS/SCI
level than for the Secret and Confidential level.
    Determinations of suitability for employment are distinct
from the determinations granting access to classified
information and facilities. Suitability determinations consider
whether an individual's character and conduct may have an
impact on the integrity or efficiency of the service he or she
would provide as an employee. Security clearance determinations
consider factors that may make the person a risk to national
security.
    The number of positions requiring security clearances
throughout the federal government and the contracting community
is over two and a half million, and appears to have grown
substantially in the years since the attacks of September 11,
2001. Reasons cited for the increase include the growth in
defense and homeland security jobs; a decade-long trend toward
privatizing federal jobs; and the increasingly sensitive
technology that military personnel, government employees and
contractors come into contact with through their jobs. More and
more, requests for clearances are for TS level rather than
Secret. For example, for DOD industry personnel in 1995, 17% of
the requests were for the TS level, while in 2003, 27% were for
TS clearances.\4\ The number of security clearances had also
grown substantially during the decades before 9/11, although it
is believed to have decreased to some extent in the 1980s and
early 1990s as a result of efforts to limit government exposure
to espionage.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ GAO. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Intelligence
Community Management, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House
of Representatives. ``Personnel Clearances: Key Factors for Reforming
the Security Clearance Process. GAO-08-352T. February 27, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unfortunately, comprehensive information about the number
of clearances being processed, or currently held, across the
U.S. Government is not available. Little historical data is
available that would permit one to track changes over time.\5\
This challenge is indicative of some of the problems to be
addressed in reforming the security clearance process.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Responses to HPSCI staff inquiries from OMB, OPM, and ODNI.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Processing large numbers of security clearances and job-
related suitability clearances, as well as keeping up with
periodic reinvestigations, constitutes a huge management
challenge. For example, as of January 2007, the federal
government was processing approximately 1.9 million requests
for background investigations annually for security clearances
or for eligibility for employment or to fulfill agencies' other
requirements.\6\ The DOD, whose uniformed, civilian, and
industry personnel hold most of the security clearances, has in
recent years been faulted by Congress for not producing
accurate projections of the number of clearances that it
requires or reliable budget predictions for the processing of
those clearances.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Report of the Security Clearance Oversight Group Consistent
with Title III of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004, February 2007, transmitted by OMB.
    \7\ For example, GAO Testimony before the Subcommittee on
Intelligence Community Management, Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence, House of Representatives. ``Personnel Clearances: Key
Factors for Reforming the Security Clearance Process. GAO-08-352T.
February 27, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

           Security Clearances in the Intelligence Community

    Approximately one-tenth of the security clearances in the
federal government are provided by the Intelligence Community,
consisting of sixteen agencies ranging widely in size and
function. The clearances are held by both civilian and contract
personnel.
    The situation with regard to security clearances in the
Intelligence Community is distinctive in several ways. First,
for employees or contractors working in the Intelligence
Community, a security clearance is essential to employment
because their jobs require access to classified material and to
intelligence facilities.\8\ Therefore, the security clearance
performs much of the role that a suitability clearance plays in
other parts of the government.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ There are a few exceptions, including work at CIA's Open Source
Center.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Second, a high percentage of the clearances for
intelligence personnel are at the TS or TS/SCI level \9\,
whereas in other parts of the government many of the clearances
are at the Secret or Confidential level. Investigations for the
TS level require more steps and more time than those conducted
at the Secret or Confidential level.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Data maintained by ODNI pertains only to personnel cleared to
the TS/SCI level; ODNI was not able to tell the Committee what
proportion of the security clearances in the IC were at that level.
July 28, 2008, e-mail response from ODNI Kathleen Butler of Legislative
Affairs to Diane La Voy.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Third, the widespread use by the Intelligence Community of
classified information may heighten awareness of the need to
protect sources and methods. This has resulted in each of the
intelligence agencies developing its own standards for
investigations and adjudications of security clearances.\10\
This situation has not changed since the enactment of IRTPA,
which required that a single agency in the federal government
conduct all the investigations ``to the maximum extent
practicable,'' and that there be one single entity to ensure
``uniform and consistent policies and procedures'' for all
security clearance adjudications.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ An exception is that since 2005, reinvestigations of security
clearances held by DIA and NSA personnel are conducted by OPM, the
entity selected by the President to conduct the investigations ``to the
maximum extent practicable.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fourth, congressional oversight of security clearances in
the Intelligence Community has not been as intense or public as
has oversight of DOD clearances. Until 2008, when the
Subcommittee requested assistance from GAO, Congress had not
requested that GAO study security clearances across the
Intelligence Community.

                  Long-Standing Congressional Concerns

    Reports by GAO show that Congress has had concerns about
the security clearance process for over twenty-five years. The
principal concerns in these reports, which have dealt primarily
with DOD, have varied over time.
    Excessive number of clearances. A number of well-publicized
espionage cases in the mid-1980s spurred congressional interest
in limiting the number cleared individuals. One of these cases
was the John A. Walker, Jr. espionage case in 1985, in which
the former U.S. Navy communications specialist was accused of
running a spy ring that was passing classified information to
the U.S.S.R.
    In response, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs held a week-
long hearing on federal government security clearance
programs.\11\ During the hearing, that subcommittee expressed
its concern that the abundance of clearances made the
protection of state secrets too difficult and recommended that
the number of cleared individuals should be kept to a minimum.
In June 1985, the Navy announced that in response to concerns
about vulnerability to espionage it would reduce cleared
personnel by 50 percent.\12\ GAO confirmed that during the next
two years, the number of employees and contractors holding DOD
clearances fell by about 40 percent.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \11\ Hearing #99-166. April 16-25, 1985.
    \12\ Halloran, Richard. Navy Orders Cut of 50% in Access to
Security Data. The New York Times. June 12, 1985.
    \13\ GAO. ``DOD Clearance Reduction and Related Issues.'' NSIAD-87-
170BR. September 18, 1987.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In recent years, Congress has been concerned less about
limiting the overall number of clearances and more concerned
about how well the executive branch, particularly DOD,
estimates the number of clearances it will need and then
manages the cost and workload of processing them all.
    Delays, backlogs. While congressional attention to security
clearances diminished in the 1990s, the topic became a focus of
concern in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001. Recognizing the Intelligence Community's urgent need for
analysts with foreign language expertise and the increasing
demand for cleared personnel for homeland security jobs, both
Congress and the executive branch turned their attention to the
need to speed up the security clearance process, which by FY
2004 was taking an average of 392 days for a TS clearance.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\ Report of the Security Clearance Oversight Group Consistent
with Title III of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004, February 2007, page 3.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A 2004 report by GAO, for example, estimated that DOD had a
backlog of 270,000 investigations and 90,000 adjudications.\15\
In particular, clearances for industry personnel were a growing
problem. GAO reported that in FY 2003 it took an average of 375
days to process clearances of all levels needed by
contractors.\16\ A 2006 GAO study, which looked at 2,259 cases
of defense industry personnel, found that TS clearances for
defense industry employees took 446 days, on average.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\ GAO. ``DOD Personnel Clearances: Additional Steps Can be Taken
to Reduce Backlogs and Delays in Determining Security Clearance
Eligibility for Industry Personnel.'' GAO-04-632. May 26, 2004.
    \16\ Ibid.
    \17\ GAO. Report to Congressional Requesters. ``DOD Personnel
Clearances: Additional OMB Actions Are Needed to Improve the Security
Clearance Process. GAO-06-1070. September, 2006.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Congress was concerned about the impacts caused by long
delays in processing security clearances. Long delays
discouraged job applicants from pursuing employment with
federal agencies or contractors and deprived the federal
government of needed talent. The financial costs of lengthy
security clearance processes are eventually passed from
contractors to the federal government and the U.S. taxpayer.
    Consistency of standards and reciprocity. One of the
earliest issues that Congress pursued with regard to security
clearances was that of ensuring consistency of standards across
government agencies. This concern persists. For example, a 1983
GAO report pointed to the need for the Navy to require
consistency across its different commands in adjudicating
security clearances, while an April 2001 GAO report called for
more consistency across the entire DOD.\18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\ GGD-83-66 and GAO-01-465.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has
called for government-wide consistency that would permit full
reciprocity, that is, that all clearances issued by authorized
agencies across the U.S. Government would be accepted by all
other agencies. Heightened awareness after 9/11 of the need for
elements of the Intelligence Community and law enforcement to
share information and to work together increased the urgency of
reforming the security clearance process.
    Congress has been particularly concerned about cases in
which federal government employees and contractors who are
moving or are detailed from one government agency to another
have been required to undergo lengthy reinvestigations and
adjudications by a new employer. While Congress has sometimes
framed this as one aspect of the timeliness problem, it has
increasingly focused on issues of interagency reciprocity in
its own right.
    In 2006, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of
the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence conducted
a review of IRTPA implementation and published its findings.
With regard to security clearances, the Oversight and
Investigations Subcommittee acknowledged improvements in
clearance timeliness, but it found little progress in other
areas. According to the report, the DNI had done little to
ensure reciprocity and had no way of measuring progress toward
that goal. In response, ODNI staff pledged to be more
proactive, and said that new guidance would be issued in 2006
to replace the outdated Director of Central Intelligence
Directive (DCID) 6/4.\19\ Intelligence Community Directive 704,
the intended replacement for DCID 6/4, has still not been
issued.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ Director of Central Intelligence Directive 6/4, Personnel
Security Standards and Procedures Governing Eligibility for Access to
Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Quality. GAO reports have repeatedly urged greater
attention to quality of the investigation and adjudication
processes. Problems such as inadequate training of adjudicators
and infrequent reinvestigation of existing clearance holders
have been cited over the years. Lack of confidence in the
quality of clearance processes has often been cited as an
impediment to full reciprocity in accepting security clearances
granted by other agencies. Clear metrics on quality would
increase confidence in the security clearance process across
agencies. Backlogs can sometimes result in reduced rigor. For
example, in the 1990s, GAO reported cases in which long delays
in completing security clearances led agencies to waive
investigative requirements. In a 1999 report to the Ranking
Member of the House Armed Services Committee, GAO reported that
92% of background investigations were deficient in one
investigative area, 77% were deficient in multiple areas, and
16% of investigations failed to pursue information about an
applicant's criminal history, alcohol or drug use, financial
trouble, or other significant problems.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\ GAO. Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Armed
Services, House of Representatives. ``DOD Personnel: Inadequate
Personnel Security Investigations Pose National Security Risks.'' GAO-
04-344. May 26, 2004.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Recently, the Subcommittee urged OMB, which in 2005 assumed
responsibility for overall management and policy for security
clearances, to focus more attention on issues of quality and to
establish clear metrics for quality of security clearance
investigations and adjudications.
    Workforce diversity. Analyses of Intelligence Community
performance immediately preceding the attacks of September 11,
2001, brought public attention to the lack of personnel with
diverse language skills and cultural backgrounds. The 9/11
Commission Report made it clear that, because very few American
colleges or universities offered programs in Middle Eastern
languages or Islamic studies, the Intelligence Community needed
urgently to recruit personnel from among first- or second-
generation Americans with the needed backgrounds.\21\ However,
the report also found that the clearance process was hindering
the Intelligence Community's ability to hire people with the
needed expertise:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \21\ The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United
States. ``The 9/11 Commission Report.'' July 22, 2004.

          Security concerns also increased the difficulty of
        recruiting officers qualified for counterterrorism. . .
        . Many who had traveled much outside the United States
        could expect a very long wait for initial clearance.
        Anyone who was foreign-born or had numerous relatives
        abroad was well-advised not even to apply.\22\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \22\ Ibid.

    The clearance process that had been designed to weed out
applicants with relationships to hostile foreign nationals was
preventing the hiring of applicants whose knowledge of foreign
languages and cultures could help protect the United States
from terrorist threats. This recruiting barrier has become a
principal bipartisan concern that has prompted legislative
provisions calling for ``multi-level security clearances'' in
the intelligence authorizations bills for FY 2006 through FY
2009.

                           Views of Industry

    Private firms carrying out contracts for DOD and the
Intelligence Community have provided Congress useful
information about the state of the security clearance process.
They, along with other private firms who support the security
clearance process itself, have also offered valuable insights
into the ways in which the process might be updated.
    Across the government, employees working on federal
contracts and as individual contractors hold many of the
security clearances. A 2004 report by GAO found that nearly
one-third of DOD-issued clearances, nearly 700,000 out of two
million, were held by industry personnel.\23\ These contracts
can be vital to the success of the defense and intelligence
missions, as contractors provide valuable personal services as
well as technical and industrial expertise.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \23\ GAO-04-632.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    For corporations working on intelligence contracts, long
processing times for security clearances can have serious
staffing and schedule implications. Representatives of industry
have told the subcommittee that delays in putting personnel to
work on federal contracts can cause cost and schedule overruns
for the contracting agency. Ultimately, these costs are borne
by taxpayers. The problem is even greater for small businesses,
which may lack the cleared staff required to review classified
requests for proposals, and therefore cannot compete for
contracts.\24\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \24\ Informal round-table discussions held by Subcommittee on
Intelligence Community Management on June 15, 2007, and related staff
conversations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The 2004 GAO report cited above found that DOD's clearance
process was not fit to provide high-quality, prompt clearance
determinations for industry personnel. As of March 2004, DOD
had a backlog of 188,000 defense industry clearance cases and
an average processing time of 375 days. In light of the large
backlogs and severe delays experienced by industry personnel,
DOD considered the option of establishing a single adjudicative
facility for industry. In 2007, a working group of government
and industry representatives was created to monitor industry
clearance timeliness and provide recommendations on
improvements. The working group expressed concern about the
timeliness of industrial clearances, and reported that 80% of
clearance requests were not acted upon within an average of 120
days and that adjudication times were lengthening.\25\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \25\ Office of Management and Budget. ``Report of the Security
Clearance Oversight Group.'' February 14, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Even though the timeliness of security processing has
improved greatly across all levels of clearances, clearances
for industry personnel still take longer than those for
government employees. In the first quarter of FY 2008, for
example, the average time required by the most timely 80% of
the clearances for DOD military and civilian employees was 104
days, while the time required for the comparable group of DOD
industry personnel was 151 days.\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \26\ Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Industry groups have grown more vocal about the need for
change in the personnel security system. In 2007, the
Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a
professional organization of industry representatives,
intelligence employees, and academics, published a white paper
on reforming the clearance system.\27\ The INSA paper argued
that the system is weighted so heavily toward keeping dangerous
individuals out, that it fails to allow in the right
individuals. The system is outdated, Cold War-oriented, and
technologically backward. The clearance regime's
administrative, investigative, and adjudicative techniques are
stuck in decades past, and need to be adapted to the social
ramifications of our mobile, networked, and dynamic, culture.
The system is keeping out first- and second-generation
Americans and other potential employees. Furthermore,
industrial security clearance delays and backlogs have made
clearance holders a commodity, driving up the cost of
government contracts. According to INSA, use of commercial
databases in investigations, end-to-end automation, and
especially a shift in emphasis from up-front investigations to
a continuous monitoring of personnel who hold clearances, are
all necessary to reform the system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \27\ Intelligence and National Security Alliance Council on
Security and Counterintelligence. ``Improving Security While Managing
Risk: How Our Personnel Security System Can Work Better, Faster, and
More Efficiently.'' October 2007.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Requirements of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of
                                  2004

    Citing the need for a fundamental restructuring of the
Intelligence Community in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist
attacks and the new challenges posed by terrorism and other
21st century threats, Congress approved the IRTPA,\28\ the most
comprehensive reform of the Intelligence Community since its
creation over a half century earlier. Principal among the
congressionally mandated changes was the establishment of a new
position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), with
strengthened authorities to centralize and unify control over a
community long viewed as more of a loose confederation of 16
separate intelligence entities than as an integrated
Intelligence Community.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \28\ P.L. 108-458, Dec. 17, 2004.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By centralizing authority over the Intelligence Community,
Congress attempted to address one of the principal problems
underscored by the 9/11 Commission, which likened the elements
of the Intelligence Community to a set of specialists in a
hospital, each ordering tests, looking for symptoms, and
prescribing medications.\29\ What was missing, according to the
9/11 Commission, was an attending physician to make sure they
work as a team. As outlined by Congress, the job of the DNI was
to be the ``attending physician,'' with the authority to make
sure the Intelligence Community works as a team to confront
terrorism and the other emerging threats of the 21st century,
threats the 9/11 Commission said increasingly called for quick,
imaginative, and agile responses.\30\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \29\ The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 353.
    \30\ Ibid, p. 399.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    One of a number of problems Congress expected the DNI to
confront with his new authorities was that of the security
clearance process, often criticized as typifying what the 9/11
Commission characterized as an Intelligence Community that had
become ``too complex and secret.'' \31\ In Title III of IRTPA,
Congress sought ``to bring greater efficiency, speed, and
interagency reciprocity to the security clearance process.''
\32\ A key feature is the centralization of responsibility for
security clearances.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \31\ Ibid, p. 410.
    \32\ Conference report to accompany S. 2845, Intelligence Reform
and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, December 7, 2004 Title III.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The following paragraphs set forth the main provisions of
Title III of the Act. Implementation of the provisions is
discussed later in greater detail.
    Uniform policies and unity of responsibility. Section
3001(b) of IRTPA requires that, within 90 days of enactment,
the President make one entity responsible for ``directing day-
to-day oversight of investigations and adjudications'' of
security clearances throughout the U.S. Government. That entity
is charged with developing and implementing ``uniform and
consistent policies and procedures to ensure the . . . timely
completion'' of all clearances. It has the final word in
authorizing agencies to conduct investigations and to
adjudicate clearances.
    Under Section 3001(c), the President was required, within
180 days of enactment, to ``select a single agency . . . to
conduct, to the maximum extent practicable, security clearance
investigations'' of all employees and contractor personnel
``and to provide and maintain all security clearances of such
employees and contractor personnel.''
    Reciprocity. Section 3001(d) requires, ``All security
clearance background investigations and determinations
completed by an authorized investigative agency or authorized
adjudicative agency shall be accepted by all agencies.'' This
language specifies that ``determinations'' as well as
``investigations'' by one agency shall be accepted by all other
agencies.
    Database on security clearances. Section 3001(e) requires
that, within a year, OPM is to establish and have operating an
integrated, secure database that integrates data relevant to
security clearances for all government employees and
contractors. This database shall integrate information from all
other federal clearance tracking systems. Each agency must
check the database to determine whether an individual requiring
a security clearance has already been granted or denied one or
had one revoked. To enforce this provision, the extent to which
an agency is submitting information to this database will be
evaluated and this will help determine whether to certify the
agency as an authorized investigative or adjudicative agency.
    Use of information technology. Section 3001(f) requires the
policy oversight entity to evaluate the use of available
information technologies and databases for expediting
investigative and adjudicative processes, doing ongoing
verification of personnel with clearances; or augmenting
periodic reinvestigations. The law requires that, no later than
a year after enactment, the policy oversight entity submit a
report to the President and Congress on the results of this
evaluation.
    Reduction in the length of the clearance process. The most
frequently-referenced requirements of Title III are in Section
3001(g). These include a plan, to be developed by the policy
oversight entity within 90 days after that entity is selected,
to reduce the length of the personnel security clearance
process. The plan is to be developed in consultation with the
appropriate committees in Congress and each authorized
adjudicative agency, and is to take effect five years after
enactment. ``To the extent practical the plan . . . shall
require that each authorized adjudicative agency make a
determination on at least 90 percent of applications for a
personnel security clearance within an average of 60 days after
. . . receipt of a completed application,'' or 40 days for
investigation and 20 for adjudication. An interim standard, to
be met not later than 2 years after enactment, is that each
agency shall make a determination on at least 80 percent of
applications with an average of 120 days after receiving the
application.
    Annual progress reports. Under Section 3001(h), the policy
oversight entity is to submit progress reports by February 15,
2006, and annually through 2011.

                  Implementation Authorities and Plans

    E.O. 13881, issued June 27, 2005, in response to the
requirements of IRTPA's Title III, affirmed a policy that
``agency functions relating to determining eligibility for
access to classified national security information shall be
appropriately uniform, centralized, efficient, effective,
timely, and reciprocal.'' It gave OMB the authority to assure
implementation of that policy. Pursuant to that authority, OMB
delegated to OPM the central role for security clearance
investigations called for in Title III, Section 3001(c).
    On June 30, 2008, E.O. 13381 was replaced by E.O. 13467, a
new executive order reforming clearance processes and
formalizing a new governance structure for the processes of
hiring and clearing federal government personnel. The Joint
Security and Suitability Reform Team proposed a governance
structure, including a Performance Accountability Council,
which is a collaborative effort consisting of representatives
of DOD, OMB, DNI, and OPM. The new council is to be accountable
for achieving the goals of security clearance reform. To be
chaired by OMB's Deputy Director for Management, the Council
includes the DNI as the ``Security Executive Agent''
responsible for security clearances government-wide; and
affirms the Director of OPM as responsible for the federal
government's workforce.
    In April 2007, DNI Mike McConnell issued the United States
Intelligence Community 100-Day Plan for Integration and
Collaboration. The plan committed the Intelligence Community to
a ``culture of collaboration,'' to ``modernize business
practices'' and to ``accelerate information sharing,'' among
other broad objectives intended to overcome the obstacles to
interagency collaboration on security issues identified
following the attacks of 9/11.
    One specific problem targeted in the DNI's 100-Day Plan was
that ``multiple, complex and inconsistent security clearance
systems slow the pace in filling open positions and moving
personnel.'' The plan envisioned ``timely granting of
clearances and the ability to enter all IC agencies with the IC
One Badge without having to send clearances.'' At the end of
the 100-day period, the DNI reported having taken a first step
by developing ``a pilot program that will pave the way for a
standard and uniform clearance process. . . .'' \33\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \33\ Follow-Up Report, July 27, 2007.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A 500-Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration, which the
DNI issued in October 2007 and would extend until the end of
the current administration, outlined a strategy to deliver an
``end to end security clearance process'' in which the
``performance of IC agency personnel security programs meet or
exceed IRTPA guidelines for clearance case processing times.''
The new plan, however, made no reference to an ``IC One Badge''
that would be accepted by all agencies.

            Assessing Performance Against IRTPA Requirements

    One entity responsible for uniform policies and
implementation. Actions have been taken, but in practice, the
requirement has not been fully met. The principal provision of
this section, the selection of OMB as the lead entity, was
implemented through E. O. 13381, which the President issued
approximately 190 days after the law's enactment.\34\ That
order was replaced on June 30, 2008, by E.O. 13467, which has
taken a different approach to implementing this IRTPA
provision, as discussed below.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \34\ The law required this selection within 90 days of enactment.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To implement IRTPA'S requirement that the entity selected
be ``the final authority to designate an authorized
investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency,'' E.O.
13381 specified that the Director of OMB might assign to any
agency any process relating to determinations of eligibility,
and that OMB was to supervise the agencies in carrying out the
investigatory or adjudicatory activities. The E.O. authorized
OMB, after consulting with the Secretary of Defense, the DNI,
and certain other department heads, to issue guidelines to the
agencies ``to ensure appropriate uniformity, centralization,
efficiency, effectiveness, and timeliness in processes relating
to determinations by agencies of eligibility for access to
classified national security information.''
    In practice, the centralization of authority required by
the law has not been fully realized. OMB's policy oversight has
not succeeded in setting forth a consistent interpretation of
interagency reciprocity, nor has it ensured implementation of
other Title III requirements.
    The new executive order, E.O. 13467, replaces OMB as the
central authority with a committee, the Suitability and
Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council (``the
Council''). The Council's members include the Director of OPM
and the DNI, and it is chaired by OMB's Deputy Director for
Management. The Council is accountable for ``aligning''
executive branch policies and procedures regarding security and
suitability clearances. The specific responsibilities for
policy and oversight of the security clearance process, which
had been assigned to OMB, are now assigned to the DNI. These
include the responsibility to designate agencies to conduct
security investigations and to ``ensure reciprocal recognition
of eligibility for access to classified information among the
agencies.''
    By naming the DNI as the ``Security Executive Agent,'' the
new executive order may make it possible to achieve greater
alignment of policies regarding Sensitive Compartmented
Information (SCI). E.O. 13381 had restricted OMB's authority
with regard to certain types of access. For determining access
to SCI and intelligence-related Special Activity Programs
(SAPs), OMB would have required the concurrence of the DNI;
while OMB guidelines on non-intelligence (military operational,
strategic and tactical) SAPs would have required the
concurrence of the head of the agency responsible for that
program.
    A single entity for investigations. This provision, which
requires that a single agency shall, ``to the maximum extent
practicable,'' be responsible for conducting security clearance
investigations, has been partially implemented. The statute
also requires this entity to integrate security clearance
applications, investigations, and determinations into a
database, and ensure security clearance investigations are
conducted under uniform standards and requirements.
    In practical terms, OPM is this single entity because it
conducts 90% of the background investigations for security
clearances, and has done so since 2005. Prior to that, these
investigations were conducted by DOD. The shift from DOD to OPM
was authorized by Congress in the National Defense
Authorization Act for FY 2003, and occurred in 2005. In
addition, in June 2005, OMB designated OPM as the single entity
responsible for security clearance investigations.\35\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \35\ June 30, 2005, OMB Memorandum for Heads of Executive
Departments and Agencies, ``Allocation of Responsibilities for Security
Clearances under the Executive Order, Strengthening Processes Relating
to Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified National Security
Information.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    OPM has not fully exercised the government-wide management
role for the other requirements of this section, nor does the
OMB designation make reference to these other requirements.
Although IRTPA calls on ``the selected agency'' to integrate
the work related to security clearances across the government,
in practice, OPM's role is limited to providing investigative
services to DOD and certain other agencies.\36\ Rather than
``provide and maintain all security clearances . . .'' and
``integrate reporting of security clearance applications,
security clearance investigations and determinations,'' into a
single database, OPM maintains records only of the clearances
for which it provides the investigations. It does not even
maintain records of the number of cases investigated or
adjudicated by other agencies.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \36\ ``OPM provides background investigation products and services
to agencies to assist them with making security clearance or
suitability decisions . . .'' Ibid.
    \37\ In response to ICM staff phone request for information about
the number of security clearances across the Federal Government, an OPM
legislative affairs officer said, ``We have information only about the
clearances that we (at OPM) do.'' Phone conversation, July 18, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While the federal government had standards for
investigation and adjudication prior to IRTPA, OPM did not
issue new guidance under the statute. However, E.O. 13467
issued in 2008, creates a Security Executive Agent who will
have responsibility for ``developing uniform and consistent
policies and procedures'' for investigations and adjudications.
Under the executive order the Security Executive Agent is the
DNI. On September 17, 2008, the DNI's representative testified
to the Subcommittee that a review of the policies and
procedures for investigations and adjudications is underway.
    Reciprocity. Under IRTPA, ``all security clearance
background investigations and determinations completed by an
authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative
agency shall be accepted by all agencies.'' This standard has
not been met.
    The law specifies that in determining whether to grant a
clearance to someone who already has the same level clearance
from another agency, no new investigations may be required; and
there may be no additional investigative or adjudicative
requirements, other than a requirement of a polygraph
examination, that exceed requirements specified in the
executive orders establishing those security requirements. The
section provides, however, for the head of the policy oversight
entity to make exceptions necessary for national security
purposes.
    The interpretation and application of reciprocity by the
current Administration has been inconsistent.
     Presidential guidance on reciprocity has changed
over time. E.O. 12968, issued August 2, 1995, required that
background investigations and eligibility determinations would
be reciprocal. E.O. 13381 issued in June 2005 loosened the
standard so that only ``agency functions relating to
determining eligibility for access'' would be reciprocal,
without requiring that final determinations be accepted. Then,
in June 2008, E.O. 13467 went back to the stronger language in
the 1995 order, requiring that ``background investigations and
adjudications shall be mutually and reciprocally accepted by
all agencies.'' \38\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \38\ 38 E.O. 13467, Section 2.1(c). Section 3(c) of this Order
states that the Order does not supersede the provisions in the 1995
Order cited above.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
     In July 2007, the DNI suggested that agencies
would not re-adjudicate clearances that have already been
granted by other agencies when he described the goal of
``modernizing business practices'' in security clearances as
the ``timely granting of clearances and the ability to enter
all IC agencies with the IC One Badge . . .''
     In testimony to the Subcommittee, Administration
witnesses argued that each agency should adjudicate clearances
for its own personnel. At the Subcommittee's open hearing on
February 27, 2008, Mr. Clay Johnson, OMB Deputy Director for
Management, testified, ``If you asked . . . anybody in the
executive branch, senior capacity, whether your access to Top
Secret information at Interior would qualify you for access to
Top Secret information at CIA, you would hear a resounding
`no.' '' Ambassador Eric Boswell, then Assistant Deputy
Director of National Intelligence for Security, explained that
a condition of employment at an intelligence agency is that
everyone is cleared at the Top Secret level and has SCI access.
Thus, the security clearance process is indistinguishable from
the determination that the applicant is suitable for employment
at that agency. Mr. Johnson testified to the Subcommittee at
its September 17, 2008, open hearing that the final
determination for suitability and access to secure information
ought to be made by the agency that is employing the person.
     Even today, the Administration acknowledges
exceptions to reciprocity. Pressed by ICM members at their
September 2008 hearing about the extent of reciprocity in
adjudications, Mr. Johnson and other Administration witnesses
indicated that OMB allows four reasons for which agencies may
determine not to recognize a clearance issued by another
agency: 1) if the position requires a polygraph and the
applicant's current position does not; 2) if the existing
clearance was issued as an interim clearance; 3) if the
position requires adjudication of foreign national family
members issues, which were not made earlier; and 4) if the job
requires disqualifying applicants because of certain
disqualifying conduct.
    The standard for reciprocity set by the law contains some
ambiguity. The law could be interpreted to require that one
agency's Top Secret clearance must be automatically recognized
by all other agencies as though the bearer of that clearance
were wearing the ``IC One Badge.'' Alternatively, reciprocity
might mean that, when one agency considers whether to provide a
security clearance to someone already holding a clearance, the
agency must accept the existing clearance unless it falls into
one of the four listed exceptions. Or reciprocity might be
interpreted to mean only that when the receiving agency
adjudicates the security clearance, it must not re-do the
existing investigatory work or revisit the particular issues
that were considered previously in reaching the security
clearance determination.
    OPM's role as investigator for the vast majority of
clearances means that investigative reciprocity is less of an
issue than adjudicative reciprocity. There is no definitive
information on the actual practice of the intelligence agencies
with regard to accepting each other's security adjudications.
Senior officials have insisted that each agency readily accepts
clearances adjudicated by the others. However, no measures
exist to substantiate that claim. At the Subcommittee's hearing
on September 17, 2008, Mr. Johnson acknowledged, ``We don't
have metrics for measuring reciprocity. We rely on anecdotal
evidence. We poll the contractor community and we notice trends
in the anecdotal reporting of nonreciprocal behavior.'' \39\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \39\ Testimony of Mr. Clay Johnson, Deputy Director, OMB, before
the Subcommittee, September 17, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Concerned by persistent anecdotal information about cases
in which reciprocity appears not to have been the rule, the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence included in
the FY 2009 authorization bill a provision requiring the
Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to audit
security clearance reciprocity in the Intelligence Community.
    An integrated, secure database. The law calls for a
database ``into which appropriate data . . . shall be entered
from all authorized investigative and adjudicative agencies.''
This requirement has not been met.
    At present, there are two separate databases, the Joint
Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), which covers DOD, and
Scattered Castles, used by the Intelligence Community.
Moreover, JPAS does not include data about clearances that are
not investigated by OPM, such as the Department of Homeland
Security and the Department of State, which are maintained in
other databases.
    At an ICM hearing held on February 27, 2008, the OPM
witness reported that OPM and DOD had linked their databases in
order to ensure ``that database is made accessible across the
government to all agencies.'' However, she noted, ``Now, it
does not include the clearances in the Intelligence Community.
If we had tied those systems together, it would have made the
whole system classified, and then it would not be usable to a
broad section of the government.'' \40\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \40\ Testimony of Kathy L. Dillaman, Associate Director, Federal
Investigative Services Division, OPM, before Subcommittee on
Intelligence Community Management of the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, June 27, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At the same hearing, Mr. Eric Boswell, then-Assistant
Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Security, added,
``The IC is served by one common database. . . . It is a
classified database, for good reasons.'' Reflecting on this
situation, he acknowledged, ``Reciprocity is not well served by
the existing IT structure. We are working, in the Joint Team,
to try to find some way to make that happen.''
    The provision in this subsection requiring OMB to
``evaluate the extent to which an agency is submitting
information to, and requesting information from, the database .
. . as part of a determination of whether to certify the agency
as an authorized investigative agency or authorized
adjudicative agency'' appears not to have been applied.
    Evaluating the use of information technology. This
requirement has been met, though belatedly. A report about the
results of an evaluation of the use of available IT to expedite
clearance processes was to be submitted by December 2005. As of
2008, no such report had been produced.
    As a complement to the April 2008 Joint Reform Team report,
the team prepared an appendix outlining the purpose, methods,
and key findings of pilot programs that examined potential
changes to the clearance system.\41\ Many of these pilot
programs evaluated the application of modern IT systems to the
clearance process. Until very recently, all fingerprints were
taken with ink, applications filled out on paper, and every
stage of every investigation and adjudication, no matter how
simple, conducted by security personnel. The demonstrations
evaluated automated or electronic approaches to these tasks.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \41\ Appendix to the Security and Suitability Process Reform
Initial Report, 30 April 2008: Demonstration Activity Results, 19 June
2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    These IT systems have been tested and proven independently
of each other. The outdated processes are now being replaced.
Testifying at the Subcommittee's September 17, 2008 hearing,
the OPM witness reported that ``94 percent, almost all, of
submissions [to OPM] for national security investigations were
done electronically, and almost half of the fingerprints were
captured using digital capturing equipment.'' \42\ The next
critical step is to test these systems as part of an end-to-end
process to ensure that they work together seamlessly. Such a
demonstration is scheduled to take place by the end of
2008.\43\ Although the undertaking of this evaluation is
belated, the Subcommittee applauds the effort and looks forward
to reviewing the results.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \42\ Testimony of Ms. Kathy Dillaman, Associate Director for
Federal Investigative Services, OPM, before the Subcommittee on
Intelligence Community Management on September 17, 2008.
    \43\ Testimony of Ms. Elizabeth McGrath, Principal Deputy Under
Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation, before the
Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management on September 17,
2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Reduction in the length of the clearance process. IRTPA
specified that within two years of enactment each authorized
adjudicative agency shall make a determination on at least 80%
of all applications for a personnel security clearance within
an average of 120 days from the date the investigative agency
receives the application. The language further stipulated that
the 120 days should allow no more than 90 days for the
investigative phase and no more than 30 days for the
adjudicative phase.
    The Administration reported that this interim standard had
been met on average across the adjudicating agencies. However,
their data suggests that this standard was not met by each
agency. Moreover, its presentation creates the best possible
picture from what is, upon closer inspection, a mixed record.
For example, in order to argue that the security clearances for
which OPM conducts investigations had met the IRTPA standard,
the report: 1) considered only the adjudications begun and
reported during the first quarter of FY 2007; 2) considered
only initial investigations, not reinvestigations; 3) did not
include ``the time to hand-off applications to the
investigative agency, hand-off investigation files to the
adjudicative agency, return the files to the investigative
agency for further information, if necessary; and/or generally
complete the security clearance process within the agency once
the investigation and adjudication are complete''; \44\ and 4)
interpreted the standard as requiring no more than 90 days for
investigations and 30 days for adjudications, ignoring the
requirement that the total amount of time for the security
clearance process should not exceed 120 days.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \44\ Ibid., p.1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    It should be noted that the requirements for timeliness in
IRTPA also lack specificity in some regards. For example, the
law aggregates TS-level clearances with those at the Secret and
Confidential level. More meaningful measures of progress would
consider the timeliness of the TS-level clearances separately.
Also, since the law does not mention the time to transmit an
application to OPM from the agency that receives the
application, the Administration reinterpreted the IRTPA
standard of 120 days to mean 130 days for ``end-to-end''
processing, including a period of 14 days for initial
transmission of the application, 25 days for adjudication, and
91 days for investigation.\45\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \45\ Ibid., footnote 1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Nevertheless, the improvement in timeliness achieved by the
December 2006 interim deadline was a remarkable achievement,
particularly by OPM, which had inherited large backlogs in
2005. Looking at the timeliness of the investigation phase for
initial clearances, the average for 80% of all those completed
during the first quarter of FY 2007 was 101 days. While this
average falls short of the IRTPA standard of 90 days for
investigations, it shows marked progress over previous years.
While initial investigations for clearances at the TS level
required 392 days in FY 2004 and 347 days in FY 2005, in FY
2006 they were completed, on average, in 286 days. For Secret/
Confidential levels, the required time was reduced from an
average of 179 days in FY 2004 to 155 days and 157 days in FY
2005 and FY 2006, respectively.\46\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \46\ Ibid., p.1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Across the federal government, performance against the
interim IRTPA standards was uneven:
     The adjudications by agencies whose investigations
are performed by OPM averaged 39 days, falling short of the
IRTPA standard of 30 days.
     Data from the individual agencies of the
Intelligence Community was not provided, but the Intelligence
Community as a whole appears to have met or exceeded the
standard. On average, 83% of all investigations and
adjudications that were completed in the first quarter of FY
2007 and the preceding fiscal year took 103 days to
process.\47\ This figure does not include the time for initial
transmittal and other processing, which would be counted in an
end-to-end measurement.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \47\ Report of the Security Clearance Oversight Group Consistent
with Title III of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004, February 2007, p.5.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
     The agencies outside of the Intelligence Community
that conduct their own investigations showed mixed results. The
State Department exceeded the IRTPA standard, requiring an
average of only 51 days to accomplish both the investigation
and adjudication. Data was insufficient to report on Department
of Homeland Security performance, although the units that
reported fell short of the IRTPA standard. The Department of
Justice/FBI performance fell well short of the IRTPA standard
for investigation, although it conducted adjudications in less
time than the IRTPA standard.
    The second set of milestones established under IRTPA will
come due in December 2009. At that point, 90% of all
applications are to be processed within an average of 60 days.
Given past performance, meeting that standard will pose a
significant challenge for almost all agencies. In an effort to
move toward those standards, in February 2008, the Security
Clearance Oversight Group set goals to be met by September
2008, including:
           providing initial security clearances to 90%
        of industry employees in same time it takes to provide
        them to non-industry employees;
           90% of TS initial investigations in less
        than 90 days; and
           90% of Secret/Confidential initial
        investigations in less than 65 days.
    Annual progress reports. In February 2007 and February
2008, OMB submitted to Congress the annual reports required
under this section. These provide detailed information about
progress achieved in reducing the processing time for security
clearances. The February 2007 report also describes efforts to
improve reciprocity, a subject that is absent from the February
2008 report.

                 Current Reforms: Issues for Oversight

    The Subcommittee remains concerned that the process has
been driving with the emergency brake on, and that four years
after IRTPA, the clearance process has not been dramatically
streamlined, but instead consists of layers and layers of
planning.\48\ The Subcommittee has been troubled by the quality
of the security clearance process. It has pressed OMB
repeatedly and unsuccessfully to establish metrics for the
quality of security clearance investigations and adjudications.
Without clearly established methods of evaluating and assessing
the security clearance process, there is no way to ensure that
the process reaches the intended result of providing access to
trustworthy Americans while protecting our national security.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \48\ Subcommittee Chairwoman Eshoo, July 30, 2008, hearing of the
Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management of the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The lack of full reciprocity among agencies continues to
exact financial costs across the government and the contracting
community, as well as the intangible cost of lost opportunities
for collaboration. Members of the Subcommittee expressed dismay
that, despite Congress's intent to bring the security clearance
process under a single authority, information and authority
remain so dispersed that no one knows how many people in the
U.S. Government hold security clearances.\49\ As the Ranking
Member has stated, ``The problems with security clearance
reform do not seem to be ones of money or even ideas. The real
issues seem to be stubbornness and a refusal to embrace system-
wide efficiency over agencies' proprietary desire to control
the clearance process.'' \50\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \49\ Ibid.
    \50\ Ibid, opening statement of Ranking Member Darrell Issa, July
30, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In March 2008, the Committee formally requested that GAO
conduct its first assessment of the security clearance process
in the Intelligence Community. This study, to be completed in
the fall of 2008, includes an evaluation of the ongoing joint
pilot reform effort being conducted by the DNI and DOD and a
review of the criteria that the administration is using to
assess the effectiveness of its efforts.
    On July 30, 2008, the Subcommittee held an open hearing to
receive preliminary results of GAO's review and to consider the
impact of the Administration's new reform plan on the security
clearance reform process.\51\ The sole witness was GAO's
Director for Military and Civilian Personnel and Medical
Readiness, Defense Capabilities and Management, Ms. Brenda
Farrell. Ms. Farrell based her remarks on GAO's initial review
of the reform plan and the new executive order, as well as
GAO's prior work on security clearance processes and its
knowledge of best practices in organizational transformation.
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    \51\ ``Security and Suitability Process Reform,'' April 30, 2008,
Initial Report of Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team; and E.O.
13467, issued June 30, 2008.
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    In her testimony, Ms. Farrell emphasized that the new
reform plan, unlike the plan issued in 2005 as required by
IRTPA, identifies some near-term actions. She also underscored
the importance, as in any major organizational change, of
ensuring the full support of senior officials and the
significance of the collaboration among the DNI, DOD, OMB, and
OPM. She noted that such collaboration did not exist in 2005.
However, she found the new plan, like the previous plan,
deficient with regard to setting specific interim goals and
metrics with which to track the progress of the reform effort.
    GAO's review will focus particularly on the structure and
role of the Performance Accountability Council created by the
E.O. 13467. In her testimony, Ms. Farrell expressed the GAO's
intention to evaluate OMB's role as chair of the Council and
the DNI's functions as Executive Agent for security clearances
and as a member of that council.\52\ GAO will address how best
to achieve full reciprocity of security clearances across the
U.S. Government, including an assessment of the willingness of
the elements of the Intelligence Community to establish a
cross-agency clearance database.\53\
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    \52\ Testimony of Ms. Brenda Farrell, Director, Defense
Capabilities and Management, GAO, before Subcommittee, July 30, 2008.
    \53\ Ibid.
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    The Subcommittee discussed the results of the GAO study at
its September 17, 2008, at which the responsible leaders of the
key institutions, including the DNI, DOD, OMB and OPM,
testified.
    As the Subcommittee concludes its security clearance
oversight activities during the 110th Congress, it finds that
progress over the past five years has been disappointing.
Recognizing that security clearance reform is one of the most
vital workforces issues facing the Intelligence Community
today, the Subcommittee remains committed, on a bipartisan
basis, to ensuring that the relevant agencies fully accomplish
the mission of reform.
    It is the intention of the Subcommittee to hold hearings on
legislative proposals early in the 111th Congress that would
spur security clearance reform by requiring agencies to report
to Congress on key metrics on the security clearance process. A
standard method of evaluation would allow tracking of
improvements from year to year and enable agencies to judge the
effectiveness of one another's security clearance process,
thereby improving confidence in the system. The legislation
would also clarify congressional intent concerning the meaning
of reciprocity and the degree to which responsibility for
security clearance adjudications must be consolidated.