The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has issued a report calling for more disclosure regarding the status of security clearance investigations and reinvestigations for federal employees and others, saying the backlog now stands at more than 700,000 cases and processing times are well above standards.
The filing of the report clears the way for the full Senate to vote on the committee-passed bill (HR-3210) which already has passed the full House.
The backlog built for several reasons, the report notes, including OPM’s cancellation of a contract with the company that formerly conducted the bulk of the investigations; its decision to switch to more manual processes following the breach of background investigation files that was announced in mid-2015; and the creation in 2016 of the National Background Investigations Bureau as a new entity within OPM. In mid-2017 OPM stopped publicly reporting on the backlog under an OMB memo reducing agency reporting requirements.
The bill would require NBIB to issue quarterly reports with detailed information about the background investigation backlog, as well as require reports on the implementation of continuous evaluation and on federal agencies’ use of security clearance reciprocity, and a one-time report on the potential for duplicative costs of carrying out a Pentagon plan to take over investigations for its own personnel.
Says the report: “The committee recognizes that the backlog cannot be reduced without government-wide implementation of reciprocity and continuous evaluations. Therefore, it is important that those federal agencies involved in these operations provide reports to Congress on the progress in implementing these vital practices. It is also critical for Congress to have a comprehensive understanding of the potential costs and effects that could result from bifurcating background investigations between NBIB and DoD before such a transfer is realized.”