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An executive order that is expected to be signed in October will formally turn over to the Department of Defense the responsibility for conducting security clearance investigations for all federal agencies.

This will take effect no later than October 2020.

“The intent is that 100 percent of security clearance processing” for the federal government will be done by the DoD, said Jeff Pon, director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Until then, the clearance process will continue to be handled by the National Background Investigations Bureau, which is an independent agency within the Office of Personnel Management.

The change is in response to the security clearance backlog that has persisted. About 700,000 people await the completion of their clearance investigations, Pon said. He also said the change to DoD oversight makes sense, given that 70 percent of the government’s clearance investigations are for current and future DoD employees.

In addition to the massive backlog, the length of investigations also is increasing. Security clearance processing times for Defense Department contractors reached a new high of 534 days, according to a May Government Executive article. Many candidates for national security jobs have reported waiting up to three years to receive their clearance.

The length of investigations also has increased for defense contractors, according to ClearanceJobs.com. It takes an average of 543 days for contractors to receive top-secret clearance, while it takes 259 days for secret clearances.

Reinvestigations for defense contractors who have top-secret clearances take about 697 days, and reinvestigations for secret clearance holders take 220 days.

“The backlog and the increased time it takes to complete investigations makes it more important than ever to be sure clearance applicants answer all of the questions on their SF-86 accurately and in their entirety,” says security clearance lawyer Catie Young. “You don’t want a simple omission or incomplete information to flag your application and perhaps extend the time it will take to get cleared.”

If you have doubts about the accuracy of your completed SF-86, consider consulting an attorney who focuses on this area of law. A security clearance attorney can offer guidance to help you ensure you put your best foot forward as you pursue clearance.

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