Security Clearance System Gets First Major Change in 50 Years

For the last year, representatives from the intelligence community, Department of Defense, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been working to reform the security clearance process to combat massive backlogs. Over the next two weeks these groups will present the Trusted Workforce 2.0 framework to Congress and the president to address this issue.

These groups make up the Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council (PAC), which was formed in March 2018 to address the 725,000 pending security clearance designations within the federal workforce.

The backlog has since been reduced to 551,000 cases. This is still 100 percent above what security professionals consider to be the “steady state” of 220,000 to 250,000 investigation in process at any given time, according to Aaron Boyd of NextGov.

The PAC has placed focus on removing minor speedbumps from the process, known as “frictions.” This includes allowing virtual interviews instead of physical interviews and removing the vetting requirements for minor things.

The PAC also proposes changing the background investigative tiers from five to three in order to simplify the process often critiqued for its complexity and length.

Bill Evanina, Director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told Federal News Networks that a primary focus of the framework will come in how the government establishes trust with an individual and how to continuously vet that person’s trust over a period of time. The new framework will include:

  • Initial vetting: will establish a baseline of trust with an individual who is just joining government or applying for a security clearance.
  • Continuous vetting: will replace the traditional five-or-ten-year periodic reinvestigations with a model that constantly identifies and flags risks for a trusted insider.
  • Upgrading an individual’s level of vetting: will be commensurate with an employee or contractor’s move to a position with higher-level risk.
  • Reestablishing trust: will restore trust with an individual who has a break in service and hasn’t been subject to continuous vetting.
  • Transfer of trust: will allow a trusted individual to take his or her security clearance with him from one agency to another.

According to Evanina, the White House is reviewing the framework now and plans to brief agency leaders on March 8.

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