The number of U.S. citizens who hold some level of security clearance continues to decrease, and the length of time it takes to process clearance applications has increased, according to a government report.
In 2015, the number of federal employees and government contractors who had security clearance fell by almost 6 percent to 4,249,053 people. In 2014, the government reduced the number of people who held security clearance by about 12 percent to 4,514,576.
There were 5.1 million clearance holders in 2013, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which protects against catastrophic threats to national and international security.
The decreases are reflected in two categories: people who have been briefed and are “in access,” and those who are eligible, but “not in access.” There were decreases in both these categories in 2015, as well as in the number of new clearances approved, the report stated.
Most of the decreases can be attributed to the Department of Defense’s initiatives to improve data quality and data integrity, the report stated. However, some agencies reported that decreases in security clearance holders were due to efforts to review and validate whether an employee or contractor still needed access to classified information to perform their job duties.
Security Clearance Approvals Decrease
The number of security clearance approvals decreased in 2015, but the number of new clearances granted is unknown. That is because the information in the report that lists the number of security clearance approvals includes new clearances, as well as periodic reinvestigations. There were 638,679 approvals in 2015, down from 665,437 in 2014.
About the Report
This report is prepared annually by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as a result of the Intelligence Authorization Act passed in 2010, which requires an annual “Report on Security Clearance Determinations” to be submitted to Congress.
It also addresses the timeliness of the security clearance process among the intelligence community, and found that challenges in that area continue, due to “competing requirements of reducing the periodic reinvestigation backlog and meeting (The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004) timeliness goals for initial security clearance processing,” the report stated.
Other factors that caused delays in 2015 included the loss of a major contract investigative service provider and processing delays associated with the temporary shutdown of eQIP, the electronic version of the SF-86.
Even though the approval process may take longer than expected, there are steps that government employees and contractors who require security clearance for their jobs can take to help ensure their investigations move along as quickly as possible.
“One important key is to complete the SF-86 accurately and in its entirety,” says security clearance attorney Catie Young. “Many investigations are delayed because of incomplete information.”
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