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Testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government 
Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, 
Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:30 p.m. EDT:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009: 

Personnel Security Clearances: 

Progress Has Been Made to Reduce Delays but Further Actions Are Needed 
to Enhance Quality and Sustain Reform Efforts: 

Statement of Brenda S. Farrell, Director: Defense Capabilities and 
Management: 

GAO-09-684T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-09-684T, a testimony to Subcommittee on Oversight of 
Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of 
Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. 
Senate. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Due to concerns about long standing delays in the security clearance 
process, Congress mandated reforms in the Intelligence Reform and 
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which requires, among other 
things, that the executive branch report annually to Congress. Since 
2005, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) clearance program has been on 
GAO’s high-risk list due to delays and incomplete documentation. The 
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts much of the government’s 
clearance investigations. In 2007, the Director of National 
Intelligence and DOD established a Joint Reform Team to coordinate 
governmentwide improvement efforts for the process. The Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) oversees these efforts. 

Based on two recent GAO reports, this statement addresses (1) progress 
in reducing delays at DOD, (2) opportunities for improving executive 
branch reports to Congress and (3) the extent to which joint reform 
efforts reflect key factors for reform. GAO independently analyzed DOD 
clearances granted in fiscal year 2008, assessed the executive branch’s 
2006-2009 reports to Congress, and compared three joint reform reports 
to key transformation practices. GAO previously recommended that OMB 
improve the transparency in executive branch reporting and establish a 
strategic framework. OMB concurred or partially concurred with these 
recommendations. 

What GAO Found: 

DOD and OPM have made significant progress in reducing delays in making 
security clearance decisions and met statutory timeliness requirements 
for DOD’s initial clearances completed in fiscal year 2008. IRTPA 
currently requires that decisions on at least 80 percent of initial 
clearances be made within an average of 120 days. In 2008, GAO found 
that OPM and DOD made initial decisions on these clearances within 87 
days, on average. 

Opportunities exist for the executive branch to improve its annual 
reports to Congress. For example, the executive branch’s 2009 report to 
Congress did not reflect the full range of time it took to make all 
initial clearance decisions and has provided limited information on 
quality. Under the current IRTPA requirements, the executive branch can 
exclude the slowest 20 percent of clearances and then calculate 
timeliness based on an average of the remaining clearances. GAO 
analyzed 100 percent of initial clearances granted in 2008 without 
taking averages or excluding the slowest clearances and found that 39 
percent took more than 120 days. The absence of comprehensive reporting 
limits full visibility over the timeliness of initial clearance 
decisions. With respect to quality, although IRTPA grants the executive 
branch latitude in reporting, the 2006-2009 reports provided little 
information on quality. However, the 2009 report identified quality 
measures that the executive branch proposes to collect. GAO has stated 
that timeliness alone does not provide a complete picture of the 
clearance process. For example, GAO recently estimated that with 
respect to initial top secret clearances adjudicated in July 2008, 
documentation was incomplete for most OPM investigative reports. 
Greater attention to quality could increase instances of reciprocity—an 
entity’s acceptance of another entity’s clearances. 

Initial joint reform efforts reflect key practices for organizational 
transformation that GAO has identified, such as having committed 
leadership and a dedicated implementation team, but the Joint Reform 
Team’s reports do not provide a strategic framework that contains 
important elements of successful transformation, including long-term 
goals with outcome-focused performance measures, nor do they identify 
potential obstacles to progress and possible remedies. Further, GAO’s 
prior work and IRTPA identified several factors key to reforming the 
clearance process. These include (1) engaging in governmentwide 
reciprocity, (2) consolidating information technology, and (3) 
identifying and reporting long-term funding requirements. However, the 
Joint Reform Team’s information technology strategy does not yet define 
roles and responsibilities for implementing a new automated capability 
which is intended to be a cross-agency collaborative initiative. Also, 
the joint reform reports do not contain information on funding 
requirements or identify funding sources. The reform effort’s success 
will depend upon the extent to which the Joint Reform Team is able to 
fully address these key factors moving forward. Further, it is 
imperative that OMB’s Deputy Director for Management continue in the 
crucial role as chair of the Performance Accountability Council, which 
oversees joint reform team efforts. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-684T] or key 
components. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 
512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the sixth in a series 
of hearings that this subcommittee has held to discuss the federal 
government's personnel security clearance process. As you know, 
security clearances are used to verify that national security 
information--which in some cases could cause exceptionally grave damage 
to U.S. national defense or foreign relations if disclosed--is 
entrusted only to individuals who have proven reliability and loyalty 
to the nation. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, 
the nation's defense and intelligence needs grew, prompting an 
increased demand for personnel with security clearances. About 2.4 
million people currently hold clearances,[Footnote 1] and in fiscal 
year 2008 the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducted about 
800,000 national security investigations in which it collected 
background information on federal personnel in positions that require 
clearances. 

In response to concerns about delays in processing clearances and other 
clearance issues, Congress set goals and established requirements for 
improving the clearance process in the Intelligence Reform and 
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA).[Footnote 2] Those 
requirements include, among other things, improving the timeliness of 
the clearance process, achieving interagency reciprocity (a government 
entity's acceptance of another government entity's clearance 
investigation or determination), establishing an integrated database to 
track investigative and adjudicative information,[Footnote 3] and 
evaluating available technology that could be used to conduct 
investigations and adjudications. IRTPA also requires the executive 
branch to provide a report to Congress, by February 15th of each year, 
on the progress made during the preceding year toward meeting IRTPA's 
requirements for security clearances, including the length of time 
agencies take to complete investigations and adjudications, a 
discussion of impediments to the implementation of IRTPA's 
requirements, and any other information or recommendations the 
executive branch considers appropriate. 

Since 2005, we have designated the Department of Defense's (DOD) 
personnel security clearance program a high-risk area.[Footnote 4] We 
first designated DOD's clearance program as a high-risk area in 2005 
due, primarily, to long-standing delays in the process.[Footnote 5] We 
found that in fiscal year 2003, for example, DOD industry personnel 
needed an average of 375 days to get a clearance and that such delays 
increase national security risks, delay the start of classified work, 
hamper employers from hiring the best-qualified workers, and increase 
the government's cost of national security-related contracts.[Footnote 
6] We maintained the high-risk designation in 2007 because of continued 
delays and additional concerns about incomplete clearance documentation 
in the investigation and adjudication phases of the security clearance 
process.[Footnote 7] For example, we reported at that time that our 
independent analysis of a sample of 2,259 initial top secret clearance 
decisions for DOD industry personnel took an average of 325 days to 
complete. During the 2007 review we also found that 47 of 50 clearance 
investigative reports and adjudicative files that we analyzed were 
missing required documentation. In 2009, despite significant 
improvement in reducing delays, we continued to designate this program 
as a high-risk area due to more stringent timeliness requirements that 
will take effect in December 2009 and continued problems with 
incomplete clearance documentation that I will be discussing today. 
[Footnote 8] 

In 2007, the Director of National Intelligence and the Under Secretary 
of Defense (Intelligence) established the Joint Reform Team to 
coordinate governmentwide efforts to achieve IRTPA timeliness goals and 
improve the processes related to granting security clearances and 
determining suitability for government employment.[Footnote 9] 
Currently, the Joint Reform Team is comprised of cognizant entities 
within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), OPM--which conducts 
background investigations for much of the federal government--the 
Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the Office 
of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) (OUSDI). In accordance 
with a recommendation made by the Joint Reform Team, Executive Order 
13467 established a Suitability and Security Clearance Performance 
Accountability Council, commonly known as the Performance 
Accountability Council, as the head of the governmentwide governance 
structure responsible for driving implementation and overseeing 
clearance reform efforts and appointed OMB's Deputy Director for 
Management as the chair. This governance structure was put in place, in 
part, to sustain the momentum of clearance reforms, particularly 
through the transition to a new administration. 

As indicated in figure 1 (a timeline highlighting key events related to 
the security clearance reform efforts), the Joint Reform Team has 
issued three key reports, which collectively communicate the reform 
effort's plans for reforming the security clearance process. First, in 
April 2008, the Joint Reform Team issued its first report that 
presented a proposed reformed security clearance process with more 
extensive use of information technology than the current process. In 
December 2008, the Team issued a report on the progress of the reform 
efforts and provided further details on the plans to implement reforms. 
Most recently, in March 2009, the Joint Reform Team finalized an 
Enterprise Information Technology Strategy to support the reformed 
security and suitability process and its associated milestones 
described in the April and December reports. 

Figure 1: Key Events Related to the Security Clearance Reform Efforts: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

December 17, 2004: 
Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act passed; 

January 2005: 
Government Accountability Office places Department of Defense’s 
clearance program on its high-risk list; 

June 27, 2005: 
Executive Order 13881 designates Office of Management and Budget the 
single entity to ensure centralization, uniformity, and reciprocity of 
security clearance policies; 

November 2005: 
Office of Management and Budget issues a plan for improving the 
security clearance process; 

June 25, 2007: 
The Joint Reform Team is formed to develop a plan for clearance reform, 
including research priorities and an information technology strategy, 
to achieve IRTPA goals; 

April 30, 2008: 
The Joint Reform Team issues a report on reforming the security 
clearance and suitability process; 

December 18, 2008: 
The Joint Reform Team issues a report outlining reform progress and 
further plans; 

June 30, 2008: 
Executive Order 13467 establishes the Performance Accountability 
Council to drive implementation of the reform effort and designated the 
Office of Management and Budget's Deputy Director for Management as 
Chair; 

March 17, 2009: 
The Joint Reform Team issues an Enterprise Information Technology 
Strategy to support the reformed security and suitability process. 

Source: GAO analysis. 

[End of figure] 

My statement today will highlight the key findings and recommendations 
from two reports we issued in May 2009. Specifically, I will discuss 
(1) DOD's and OPM's progress in reducing delays in the personnel 
security clearance process for DOD personnel, (2) opportunities for 
improving the executive branch's annual reports to Congress in terms of 
timeliness and quality and (3) the extent to which joint reform efforts 
reflect essential factors for reform.[Footnote 10] To assess the 
timeliness for completing initial clearances, we reviewed IRTPA's 
requirements; conducted an independent analysis of the timeliness of 
450,000 initial clearances completed in fiscal year 2008 for military, 
DOD civilian, and industry personnel; and analyzed the timeliness data 
contained in the executive branch's 2009 annual report to Congress 
regarding clearances granted in fiscal year 2008. To assess the extent 
to which the executive branch has included transparent information on 
timeliness as well as information on quality in its annual reports to 
Congress, we analyzed reports that were issued in 2006 through 2009. In 
addition, we reviewed clearance-related files for completeness and held 
interviews with senior officials at OMB, DOD, ODNI, and OPM. To assess 
the extent to which joint reform reports address essential factors for 
reform, we compared the Joint Reform Team's reform plans to key 
practices and implementation steps for mergers and organizational 
transformations that we have previously identified.[Footnote 11] We 
conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

DOD and OPM Have Made Significant Progress in Reducing Delays in the 
Clearance Process for DOD Personnel: 

Since 2005, DOD and OPM have made significant progress in reducing 
delays in making personnel security clearance decisions and met 
statutory timeliness requirements for DOD's initial clearances 
completed in fiscal year 2008. IRTPA currently requires that decisions 
on at least 80 percent of initial clearances be made within an average 
of 120 days. In December of 2008, we conducted an analysis to assess 
whether DOD and OPM were meeting the current timelines requirements in 
IRTPA and examined the fastest 80 percent of initial clearance 
decisions for military, DOD civilian, and DOD industry personnel. We 
found that these clearance decisions were completed within 87 days, on 
average, and well within IRTPA's requirements. 

IRTPA further requires that by December 2009, a plan be implemented in 
which, to the extent practical, 90 percent of initial clearance 
decisions are made within 60 days, on average. We also analyzed the 
executive branch's 2009 annual report to Congress, which presented an 
average of the fastest 90 percent of initial clearance decisions in 
anticipation of IRTPA's December 2009 requirements. The report stated 
that the average time for completing the fastest 90 percent of initial 
clearances for military and DOD civilians in fiscal year 2008 was 124 
days. The report also stated that the average time for completing the 
fastest 90 percent of initial clearances for private industry personnel 
working on DOD contracts in fiscal year 2008 was 129 days.[Footnote 12] 
DOD and OMB officials have noted that the existing clearance process is 
not likely to allow DOD and other agencies to meet the timeliness 
requirements that will take effect in December 2009 under IRTPA. 

Opportunities Exist to Improve Executive Branch Reporting to Congress: 

Annual Reports Could Benefit from Greater Transparency in Clearance 
Timeliness Reporting: 

IRTPA requires that the executive branch report annually on the 
progress made during the preceding year toward meeting statutory 
requirements for security clearances, including timeliness, and also 
provides broad discretion to the executive branch to report any 
additional information considered appropriate. Under the timeliness 
requirements in IRTPA, the executive branch can exclude the slowest 
clearances and then calculate the average of the remaining clearances. 
Using this approach and anticipating IRTPA's requirement that by 
December 2009, a plan be implemented under which, to the extent 
practical, 90 percent of initial clearance decisions are made within an 
average of 60 days, the executive branch's 2009 report cited as its 
sole metric for timeliness the average of the fastest 90 percent of 
initial clearances. 

We conducted an independent analysis of all initial clearance decisions 
that DOD made in fiscal year 2008 that more fully reflects the time 
spent making clearance decisions. Without excluding any portion of the 
data or taking an average, we analyzed 100 percent of 450,000 initial 
DOD clearances decisions made in fiscal year 2008 for military, DOD 
civilian, and DOD industry personnel. Figure 2 shows the full range of 
time it took DOD and OPM to make clearance decisions in fiscal year 
2008. 

Figure 2: Timeliness of 100 Percent of GAO Sample of Initial DOD 
Personnel Security Clearance Eligibility Decisions Made in Fiscal Year 
2008: 

[Refer to PDF for image: stacked vertical bar graph] 

Days to complete: 0-30; 
Top secret: 316 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 30,504 clearances. 

Days to complete: 31-60; 
Top secret: 4,089 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 98,012 clearances. 

Days to complete: 61-90; 
Top secret: 11,818 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 65,555 clearances. 

Days to complete: 91-120; 
Top secret: 17,561 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 47,614 clearances. 

Days to complete: 121-150; 
Top secret: 11,334 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 27,740 clearances. 

Days to complete: 151-180; 
Top secret: 8,514 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 18,135 clearances. 

Days to complete: 181-210; 
Top secret: 6,737 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 13,713 clearances. 

Days to complete: 211-240; 
Top secret: 4,790 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 11,905 clearances. 

Days to complete: 241-270; 
Top secret: 3,363 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 9,369 clearances. 

Days to complete: 271-300; 
Top secret: 2,438 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 6,725 clearances. 

Days to complete: 301-330; 
Top secret: 1,592 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 5,118 clearances. 

Days to complete: 331-360; 
Top secret: 1,013 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 4,029 clearances. 

Days to complete: 361-390; 
Top secret: 750 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 3,276 clearances. 

Days to complete: 391-420; 
Top secret: 733 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 2,984 clearances. 

Days to complete: 421-450; 
Top secret: 746 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 2,563 clearances. 

Days to complete: 451-480; 
Top secret: 786 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 2,328 clearances. 

Days to complete: 481-510; 
Top secret: 753 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,941 clearances. 

Days to complete: 511-540; 
Top secret: 753 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,814 clearances. 

Days to complete: 541-570; 
Top secret: 831 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,718 clearances. 

Days to complete: 571-600; 
Top secret: 1,041 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,496 clearances. 

Days to complete: 601-630; 
Top secret: 1,261 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,382 clearances. 

Days to complete: 631-660; 
Top secret: 1,269 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,194 clearances. 

Days to complete: 661-690; 
Top secret: 1,138 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 1,041 clearances. 

Days to complete: 691 or more; 
Top secret: 2,450 clearances; 
Confidential/secret: 2,023 clearances. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD and OPM data. 

[End of figure] 

As you can see, our independent analysis of all of the initial 
clearances revealed that 39 percent of the clearance decisions took 
more than 120 days to complete. In addition, 11 percent of the initial 
clearance eligibility decisions took more than 300 days to complete. 

By limiting its reporting on timeliness to the average of the fastest 
90 percent of the initial clearance decisions made in fiscal year 2008 
and excluding mention of the slowest clearances, the executive branch 
did not provide congressional decision makers with visibility over the 
full range of time it takes to make all initial clearance decisions and 
the reasons why delays continue to exist. In our recent report, we 
recommended that the Deputy Director for Management at OMB (who is 
responsible for submitting the annual report) include comprehensive 
data on the timeliness of the personnel security clearance process in 
future versions of the IRTPA-required annual report to Congress. 
[Footnote 13] In oral comments in response to our recommendation, OMB 
concurred, recognized the need for timeliness, and underscored the 
importance of reporting on the full range of time to complete all 
initial clearances. We note, Mr. Chairman, that you previously 
submitted an amendment to expand IRTPA's provision on reporting on 
clearance timeliness.[Footnote 14] 

Annual Reports Could Provide Congress with Greater Visibility over 
Quality Issues: 

While IRTPA contains no requirement for the executive branch to report 
any information on quality, the act grants the executive branch broad 
latitude to include any appropriate information in its reports. The 
executive branch's 2006 through 2009 IRTPA-required reports to Congress 
on the clearance process provided congressional decision makers with 
little information on quality--a measure that could include topics such 
as the completeness of the clearance documentation of clearance 
decisions. The 2006 and 2008 reports did not contain any mention of 
quality, and the 2007 report mentioned a single quality measure--the 
frequency with which adjudicating agencies returned OPM's investigative 
reports because of quality deficiencies. The 2009 report does not 
contain any data on quality but proposes two measures of investigative 
report quality and identifies plans to measure adjudicative quality. 
Specifically, the discussion of these measures is included in the Joint 
Reform Team's December 2008 report, Security and Suitability Process 
Reform, which was included in the executive branch's 2009 report. 

We have previously reported that information on timeliness alone does 
not communicate a complete picture of the clearance process, and we 
have emphasized the importance of ensuring quality in all phases of the 
clearance process. For example, we recently estimated that with respect 
to initial top secret clearances adjudicated in July 2008, 
documentation was incomplete for most OPM investigative reports and 
some DOD adjudicative files.[Footnote 15] We independently estimated 
that 87 percent of about 3,500 investigative reports that adjudicators 
used to make clearance decisions were missing required documentation, 
and the documentation most often missing was employment verification. 
[Footnote 16] Incomplete documentation may lead to increases in both 
the time needed to complete the clearance process and in overall 
process costs and may reduce the assurance that appropriate safeguards 
are in place to prevent DOD from granting clearances to untrustworthy 
individuals. Because the executive branch has not sufficiently 
addressed quality in its reports, it has missed opportunities to 
provide congressional decision makers with greater visibility over the 
clearance process. In our most recent report, we recommended that the 
Deputy Director for Management at OMB include measures of quality in 
future versions of the IRTPA-required annual reports. In oral comments, 
OMB concurred with our recommendation and emphasized the importance of 
providing Congress more transparency about quality in the clearance 
process. 

Initial Reform Efforts Partially Reflect Key Practices for 
Organizational Transformation and Essential Factors for Clearance 
Reform, but Lack a Fully Developed Strategic Framework: 

Initial joint reform efforts partially reflect key practices for 
organizational transformation that we have identified, such as having 
committed leadership and a dedicated implementation team, but reports 
issued by the Joint Reform Team do not provide a strategic framework 
that contains important elements of successful transformation, 
including long-term goals with related outcome-focused performance 
measures to show progress, nor do they identify potential obstacles to 
progress and possible remedies. Consistent with some of the key 
practices for organizational transformation,[Footnote 17] a June 2008 
Executive Order established the Suitability and Security Clearance 
Performance Accountability Council, commonly known as the Performance 
Accountability Council, as the head of the governmentwide governance 
structure responsible for achieving clearance reform goals and driving 
and overseeing the implementation of reform efforts. The Deputy 
Director for Management at OMB--who was confirmed in June 2009--serves 
as the Chair of the Council, and the Order also designated the Director 
of OPM and the Director of National Intelligence as Executive Agents 
for Suitability and Security, respectively. Membership on the council 
currently includes senior executive leaders from 11 federal agencies. 
In addition to high-level leadership of the Performance Accountability 
Council, the reform effort has benefited from a dedicated, multi-agency 
implementation team--the Joint Reform Team--to manage the 
transformation process from the beginning.[Footnote 18] The Joint 
Reform Team, while not formally part of the governance structure 
established by Executive Order 13467, works under the Council to 
provide progress reports to the President, recommend research 
priorities, and oversee the development and implementation of an 
information technology strategy, among other things. 

In addition to the key practices, the three reports issued by the Joint 
Reform Team have begun to address essential factors for reforming the 
security clearance process that we identified in prior work and that 
are also found in IRTPA. These factors include (1) developing a sound 
requirements determination process, (2) engaging in governmentwide 
reciprocity, (3) building quality into every step of the process, (4) 
consolidating information technology, and (5) identifying and reporting 
long-term funding requirements.[Footnote 19] 

While the personnel security clearance joint reform reports, which we 
reviewed collectively, begin to address essential factors for reforming 
the security clearance process, which represents positive steps, the 
Joint Reform Team's information technology strategy does not yet define 
roles and responsibilities for implementing a new automated capability 
that is intended to be a cross-agency collaborative initiative. GAO's 
prior work on key collaboration practices has stressed the importance 
of defining these roles and responsibilities when initiating cross- 
agency initiatives.[Footnote 20] In addition, the Joint Reform Team's 
reports do not contain any information on initiatives that will require 
funding, determine how much they will cost, or identify potential 
funding sources. Without long-term funding requirements, decision 
makers in both the executive and legislative branches will lack 
important information for comparing and prioritizing proposals for 
reforming the clearance processes. The reform effort's success will be 
dependent upon the extent to which the Joint Reform Team is able to 
fully address these key factors moving forward. 

Although the high-level leadership and governance structure of the 
current reform effort distinguish it from previous efforts, it is 
difficult to gauge progress of reform, or determine if corrective 
action is needed, because the council, through the Joint Reform Team, 
has not established a method for evaluating the progress of the reform 
efforts. Without a strategic framework that fully addresses the long- 
standing security clearance problems and incorporates key practices for 
transformation--including the ability to demonstrate progress leading 
to desired results--the Joint Reform Team is not in a position to 
demonstrate to decision makers the extent of progress that it is making 
toward achieving its desired outcomes, and the effort is at risk of 
losing momentum and not being fully implemented. 

In our May 2009 report, we recommended that OMB's Deputy Director of 
Management in the capacity as Chair of the Performance Accountability 
Council, ensure that the appropriate entities--such as the Performance 
Accountability Council, its subcommittees, or the Joint Reform Team-- 
establish a strategic framework for the joint reform effort to include 
(1) a mission statement and strategic goals; (2) outcome-focused 
performance measures to continually evaluate the progress of the reform 
effort toward meeting its goals and addressing long-standing problems 
with the security clearance process; (3) a formal, comprehensive 
communication strategy that includes consistency of message and 
encourages two-way communication between the Performance Accountability 
Council and key stakeholders; (4) a clear delineation of roles and 
responsibilities for the implementation of the information technology 
strategy among all agencies responsible for developing and implementing 
components of the information technology strategy; and (5) long-term 
funding requirements for security clearance reform, including estimates 
of potential cost savings from the reformed process and provide them to 
decision makers in Congress and the executive branch.[Footnote 21] 

In oral comments on our report, OMB stated that it partially concurred 
with our recommendation to establish a strategic framework for the 
joint reform effort. Further, in written agency comments provided to us 
jointly by DOD and ODNI, they also partially concurred with our 
recommendation. Additionally, DOD and ODNI commented on the specific 
elements of the strategic framework that we included as part of our 
recommendation. For example, in the comments, DOD and ODNI agreed that 
the reform effort must contain outcome-focused performance measures, 
but added that these metrics must evolve as the process improvements 
and new capabilities are developed and implemented because the effort 
is iterative and in phased development. We continue to believe that 
outcome-focused performance measures are a critical tool that can be 
used to guide the reform effort and allow overseers to determine when 
the reform effort has accomplished it goals and purpose. In addition, 
DOD and ODNI asserted that considerable work has already been done on 
information technology for the reform effort, but added that even 
clearer roles and responsibilities will be identified moving forward. 
Regarding our finding that, at present, no single database exists in 
accordance with IRTPA's requirement that OPM establish an integrated 
database that tracks investigations and adjudication information, DOD 
and ODNI stated that the reform effort continues its iterative 
implementation of improvements to systems that improve access to 
information that agencies need. DOD and ODNI also acknowledged that 
more work needs to be done to identify long-term funding requirements. 

Mr. Chairman, I want to conclude by reiterating that DOD and OPM are 
meeting current IRTPA timeliness requirements, which means that 80 
percent of initial clearance decisions are made within 120 days, on 
average. This represents significant and noteworthy progress from our 
finding in 2007, when we reported that industry personnel waited more 
than 1 year, on average, to receive a top secret clearance. I would 
also like to emphasize that, although the high-level leadership and 
governance structure of the current reform effort distinguish it from 
previous attempts at clearance reform, it is imperative that OMB's 
newly appointed Deputy Director for Management continue in the crucial 
role as chair of the Performance Accountability Council in deciding (1) 
how to implement the recommendations contained in our most recent 
reports, (2) what types of actions are necessary for developing a 
corrective action plan, and (3) how the corrective measures will be 
implemented. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
answer any questions you may have at this time. 

Contact and Acknowledgments: 

For further information regarding this testimony, please contact me at 
(202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this statement. Individuals who made key contributions to this 
testimony are David E. Moser, Assistant Director; James D. Ashley; Lori 
Atkinson; Joseph M. Capuano; Sara Cradic; Mae Jones; Shvetal Khanna; 
James P. Klein; Ron La Due Lake; and Gregory Marchand. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Comprehensive Timeliness Reporting, Complete 
Clearance Documentation, and Quality Measures Are Needed to Further 
Improve the Clearance Process. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-400]. Washington, D.C.: May 19, 
2009. 

Personnel Security Clearances: An Outcome-Focused Strategy Is Needed to 
Guide Implementation of the Reformed Clearance Process. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-488] Washington, D.C.: May 19, 2009. 

High-Risk Series: An Update. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-271]. Washington, D.C.: January 22, 
2009. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Preliminary Observations about Timeliness and 
Quality. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-261R]. 
Washington, D.C.: December 19, 2008. 

Personnel Security Clearance: Preliminary Observations on Joint Reform 
Efforts to Improve the Governmentwide Clearance Eligibility Process. 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1050T]. Washington, 
D.C.: July 30, 2008. 

Personnel Clearances: Key Factors for Reforming the Security Clearance 
Process. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-776T]. 
Washington, D.C.: May 22, 2008. 

Employee Security: Implementation of Identification Cards and DOD's 
Personnel Security Clearance Program Need Improvement. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-551T]. Washington, D.C.: April 9, 
2008. 

Personnel Clearances: Key Factors to Consider in Efforts to Reform 
Security Clearance Processes. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-352T]. Washington, D.C.: February 
27, 2008. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Improved Annual Reporting Would Enable More 
Informed Congressional Oversight. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-350]. Washington, D.C.: February 13, 
2008. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Delays and Inadequate Documentation Found for 
Industry Personnel. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-842T]. Washington, D.C.: May 17, 
2007. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Additional OMB Actions Are Needed to Improve 
the Security Clearance Process. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-1070]. Washington, D.C.: September 
28, 2006. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Questions and Answers for the Record 
Following the Second in a Series of Hearings on Fixing the Security 
Clearance Process. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-693R]. Washington, D.C.: June 14, 
2006. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: New Concerns Slow Processing of Clearances 
for Industry Personnel. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-748T]. Washington, D.C.: May 17, 
2006. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Funding Challenges and Other Impediments Slow 
Clearances for Industry Personnel. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-747T]. Washington, D.C.: May 17, 
2006. 

DOD Personnel Clearances: Government Plan Addresses Some Long-standing 
Problems with DOD's Program, but Concerns Remain. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-233T]. Washington, D.C.: November 9, 
2005. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] The 2.4 million is an estimate provided by OPM. It excludes some 
personnel who hold clearances to work in areas of national 
intelligence. 

[2] Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 3001 (2004). 

[3] The security clearance process currently consists of six phases: 
requirements setting (the determination of whether a position requires 
access to classified information), application submission (an 
applicant's submission of required materials and the submission of a 
request for a background investigation), investigation (OPM's or an OPM 
contractor's collection of background information), adjudication (the 
review of the information collected during the investigation to 
determine clearance eligibility), appeal, and renewal. 

[4] GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-207] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 2005); 
High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-310] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 2007); 
and High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-271] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 2009). 

[5] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-207]. 

[6] GAO, DOD Personnel Clearances: Additional Steps Can Be Taken to 
Reduce Backlogs and Delays in Determining Security Clearance 
Eligibility for Industry Personnel, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-632] (Washington, D.C: May 26, 
2004). 

[7] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-310]. 

[8] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-271]. 

[9] Determinations of suitability for government employment in 
positions in the competitive service and for career appointment in the 
Senior Executive Service include consideration of aspects of an 
individual's character or conduct that may have an impact on the 
integrity or efficiency of their service. Exec. Order No. 13467, 
Reforming Processes Related to Suitability for Government Employment, 
Fitness for Contractor Employees, and Eligibility for Access to 
Classified National Security Information, at § 1.2(l) (June 30, 2008) 
(citing 5 C.F.R. Part 731). 

[10] GAO, Personnel Security Clearances: An Outcome-Focused Strategy Is 
Needed to Guide Implementation of the Reformed Clearance Process, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-488] (Washington, D.C.: 
May 19, 2009); and DOD Personnel Clearances: Comprehensive Timeliness 
Reporting, Complete Clearance Documentation, and Quality Measures Are 
Needed to Further Improve the Clearance Process, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-400] (Washington, D.C.: May 19, 
2009). 

[11] GAO, Highlights of a GAO Forum: Mergers and Transformation: 
Lessons Learned for a Department of Homeland Security and Other Federal 
Agencies. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-293SP] 
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 14, 2002); and Results-Oriented Cultures: 
Implementation Steps to Assist Mergers and Organizational 
Transformations, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-669] 
(Washington, D.C.: July 2, 2003). 

[12] The executive branch report also included information on 
timeliness not specifically required by IRTPA, such as the average 
length of time DOD and other agencies took to complete the application 
submission phase of the clearance process. 

[13] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-400]. 

[14] Senate Amendment 5351 to S.3001, the Duncan Hunter National 
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, would have proposed, 
among other things, expanding IRTPA's reporting provision. 

[15] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-400]. 

[16] We independently selected a stratified random probability sample 
of 100 OPM investigative reports and associated DOD adjudicative files 
from the population of 3,993 applications that were identified as 
clearances that were favorably adjudicated in July 2008 by the central 
adjudication facilities of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air 
Force. We estimated that the total number of clearances DOD granted in 
July 2008 was 3,500 (+/-300). For this population, we produced 
statistical estimates that have a margin of error of plus or minus 10 
percent or less at the 95 percent confidence level. See [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-400] for further details. 

[17] Key practices for government transformation refer to those agreed 
upon in September 2002 at a forum we convened in which representatives 
from major private and public sector organizations identified and 
discussed practices and lessons learned from mergers, acquisitions, and 
transformations that can serve to guide federal agencies as they 
transform their processes in response to governance challenges. See 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-293SP]. 

[18] According to the Joint Reform Team, over 70 personnel from DOD, 
OPM, and ODNI currently support the team's initiatives (including 
approximately 17 full-time staff). 

[19] Establishing a sound requirement-determination process, building 
quality into every step of the process, and providing Congress with 
long-term funding-requirements are identified in our previous work. See 
GAO, Personnel Clearances: Key Factors to Consider in Efforts to Reform 
Security Clearance Processes, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-352T], (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 27, 
2008). Establishing governmentwide reciprocity and developing and 
consolidating information technology are derived from § 3001(d) and (f) 
of IRTPA. 

[20] GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance 
and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-15] (Washington, D.C.: Oct 21, 
2005); and Information Technology: Customs Automated Commercial 
Environment Program Progressing, But Need for Management Improvements 
Continues, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-267] 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar 14, 2005). 

[21] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-488]. 

[End of section] 

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