The numbers of federal, military and contractor personnel who hold security clearances—required for many federal jobs, although not always needed in practice —continues to decline, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has reported.
Counting government, contractor and other personnel, the number fell from 4.514 million to 4.249 million over fiscal 2014-2015.
“The majority of decreases resulted from Department of Defense’s successful implementation of data quality initiatives that have positively impacted areas of data quality and data integrity. However, some agencies indicated that decreases in their overall population were the result of efforts across the [federal government] to review and validate whether an employee or contractor still requires access to classified information,” it said.
In the government category—including civilian and military personnel—the total number eligible for confidential or secret clearances fell by about 150,000 to 2.262 million, while those eligible for top secret clearances fell by about 25,000 to 747,000.
Among those. about half are “not in access”—that is, while they are cleared, they do not have actual access to classified information unless a specific need arises. Most of the reduction in eligibility came in that category, with a lesser reduction for those regularly “in access.”
Processing times—long a sore point for managers who can’t allow new employees to perform their full range of duties until they get a clearance–for the longest cases have decreased in some agencies, although average processing times have increased. Also, there were more cases pending over four months than in the previous fiscal year.
Some of that slowdown, it said, resulted from delays when OPM ended its prior contract with a former contractor performing background investigations; while intelligence agencies have authority to conduct their own investigations and in many cases do so, they also augment their capabilities by using OPM on a reimbursable basis.