Employees and contractors interested in the range of security clearance standards and practices employed throughout the U.S. Government
DHS review of Clearance Process
June 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm #73693
This report assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Homeland Security’s personnel security programs. At the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Security was given oversight of component personnel security programs. In 2005, the Office of Security, Personnel Security Division, was instructed to develop departmental personnel security policies and procedures. Department of Homeland Security Management Directive 11080 requires components to collaborate, participate, and recognize the shared, related, and interdependent responsibility to provide effective and efficient personnel security services to the department.
Department of Homeland Security personnel security offices are performing similar functions but use different policies throughout the personnel security process. Across the department, components strive to provide quality results in a timely manner but often are delayed by applicants, overwhelmed by customer service requests, restricted by database functions, and limited by information availability. The personnel security process is complicated. Application of reciprocity requires unification of Department of Homeland Security financial criteria, combination of temporary hiring requirements, and standardization of adjudication training. Further, department personnel security programs would benefit if better relationships could be established between the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Homeland Security Chief Human Capital Office. The Department of Homeland Security personnel security program could be made more efficient and effective by consolidating the personnel security intake process, standardizing personnel security policies, and establishing better relationships.
We are making 20 recommendations to improve the Department of Homeland Security’s personnel security process.
A May 2009 report, “The DHS Personnel Security Process,” issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated that:
“Department of Homeland Security personnel security offices are performing similar functions but use different policies throughout the personnel security process. Across the department, components strive to provide quality results in a timely manner but often are delayed by applicants, overwhelmed by customer service requests, restricted by database functions, and limited by information availability.”
The report made 20 recommendations to improve the Department of Homeland Security’s personnel security process, including some recommendations to consolidate security functions. As of November 2008 DHS was phasing in the use of a new department-wide web-based system to manage investigations and clearances to replace the 9 separate systems used by component agencies. Currently about half the components of DHS have authority to conduct their own clearance investigations. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Custom Enforcement contract for background investigations with several private companies. US Coast Guard and DHS Headquarters use a mix of investigative services provided by contractors and the Office of Personnel Management. The Secret Service uses internal investigative resources.
The report also contained investigative and adjudicative elapse times by departmental components. For 2008 average investigative times ranged from 30 to 96 days and average adjudicative times ranged from 17 to 147 days.
June 19, 2009 at 3:38 pm #73695
Related story from Federal Computer Week
DHS resists security clearance improvements
Agency leaders object to IG suggestions on how to improve the security-clearance process
* By Alice Lipowicz
* Jun 15, 2009
Homeland Security Department executives are resisting some recommendations from the agency’s inspector general to consolidate their handling of security clearance applications. DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner issued the recommendations in a report published June 3.
About 70,000 of the 208,000 DHS employees have jobs that require security clearances to enable them to access classified information. But the process of investigating and awarding the clearances is complex and convoluted, Skinner wrote. DHS component agencies often are “delayed by applicants, overwhelmed by customer service requests, restricted by database functions and limited by information availability” in processing the applications, the report states.
The IG made 20 recommendations, including integrating databases and centralizing security intake processes. But in their written responses, DHS executives were cautious and accepted the recommendations only in part.
For example, Skinner’s report notes that people selected for DHS jobs and even human resources executives often have difficulty accessing online security forms. But the various agencies have different approaches to customer service. The IG recommended that those responsibilities be delegated to DHS’ Personnel Security Division.
Jerry Williams, DHS’ chief security officer, backed delegating some of those responsibilities but rejected the idea of a central system. “Each component has unique characteristics and operating requirements that would make consolidation impracticable,” Williams wrote in a response to the draft report.
Furthermore, the IG’s recommendation that DHS create a centralized security intake process and customer service center would necessitate a “significant reallocation of resources and space” and requires further study, Williams said.
“This illustrates the difficulty of moving forward on these issues,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “The component agencies don’t want this to be integrated into a single uniform system because they all value their autonomy.”
The problems date to the agency’s creation in 2002, said Evan Lesser, director of ClearanceJobs.com. The separate agencies under DHS, such as Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard, had their own clearance processes before the merger and have not made much progress toward harmonizing their approaches since then.
Fixing the system might require a larger overhaul of the government’s approach to security, said consultant Bruce Schneier. “The problem is that in the end, this system of security clearances doesn’t catch the bad guys,” he said. “All the known spies have had security clearances. These little fixes don’t fix the problem.”
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