6 Recommendations for Improving Security Clearance Management

Tim Clark, Government Executive, Charlie Allen, INSA, John Fitzpatrick, National Archives

On the whole we’ve slain the dragon of taking months, if not years, to process clearances on the front end. Anecdotally there are still horror stories, but there’s no denying great strides have been made.

From an average of 446 days to process initial clearances and 544 days for updates in 2006, DoD largely met the IRPTA 60-day goal in 2010 (90% of initial clearances processed in 60 days), resulting in DoD’s removal from the the GAO’s high-risk list.

What hasn’t been dealt with effectively is impediments to working efficiently once the employees are in the door. It’s estimated that 10-20% of the intelligence community’s private-sector workforce, estimated at about 100,000 individuals, are not on the job at any given time. That’s due to issues related to their security clearance. This is particularly difficult for smaller and medium-sized firms to manage. And it makes competing with the big boys of contracting even more challenging for smaller firms.

Next Steps for Security Reform

Today the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) released a white paper titled “Next Steps for Security Reform.” The paper features six recommendations for reforming security policy to save millions of dollars by increasing efficiencies. The paper’s release was highlighted as part of Government Executive’s “Intelligence Series” discussions.

Charlie Allen, INSA Senior Intelligence Advisor, led the Security Clearance Reform Task Force that authored the paper. Charlie was joined by John Fitzpatrick, Director, Information Security Oversight Office, National Archives and Records Administration.

As Charlie Allen stressed repeatedly, in the “coming winter” of funding cuts, agencies and contractors can not afford the built-in higher costs of not working efficiently.

The six goals for reforming security policy for private industry:

  1. Account for contractor security costs, including high-level clearances and secure facility usage, and for the timeliness of policy implementation and reinvestigations.
  2. Provide contracting officials with improved security guidelines.
  3. Implement flexible approaches for cleared contractors to access sensitive information in the short-term.
  4. Support industry security structures that permit the anticipation of government needs, and development of solutions and innovations.
  5. Promote a level playing field across industry for large and small companies.
  6. Apply security policies clearly and consistently across agencies and companies.

The main cause of each of these issues is the disconnect between contracting and security processes.

The recommendations of the report highlight industry helping government to maintain standards while doing more with less. The resulting six recommendations for progress:

  1. Align security and contracting processes to minimize cost impacts to industry and government.
  2. Make clearance portability a reality.
  3. Follow suitability and investigative standards.
  4. Spin off a low-side version of Scattered Castles, the intelligence community’s database for all security and access information.
  5. Invest in personnel security automation that is reliable and cost efficient.
  6. Encourage conversations across programs and contracts, and temporary storage in secure facilities.

Some of these recommendations may be controversial, others are seemingly common-sense. The question is, will anyone listen?

For more details read the white paper here. Your thoughts?

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