By John V. Berry, Esq., BERRY & BERRY, PLLC, www.berrylegal.com
In an area of importance to our Law Firm’s security clearance legal practice, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced recently that it was removing the Department of Defense’s (DOD) security clearance program from the GAO High Risk list of government programs in trouble.
The GAO found that “improvements in timeliness and better management have led the Government Accountability Office to remove the ‘high risk’ designation from the Pentagon’s Personal Security Clearance Program, a tag the auditors give to programs they believe are subject to mismanagement, waste, fraud or abuse.”
The GAO, in their assessment of the improvements to the security clearance program, stated that they were “removing DOD’s personnel security clearance program from the High-Risk List because of the agency’s progress in timeliness and the development of tools and metrics to assess quality, as well as its commitment to sustaining progress. Importantly, continued congressional oversight and the committed leadership of the Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council (Council)—which is responsible for overseeing security clearance reform efforts—have greatly contributed to the progress of DOD and governmentwide security clearance reform.”
As part of their decision, the GAO listed the following reasons for removing the DOD security clearance program from the High-Risk list, which were as follows:
(1) that DOD had significantly improved the timeliness of security clearances and met the IRTPA objective for processing 90 percent of initial security clearances on average within 60 days for fiscal year 2010;
(2) that DOD has worked with members of the Council to develop a strategic framework for clearance reform;
(3) that DOD has designed quality tools to evaluate completeness of clearance documentation;
(4) that DOD has issued guidance on adjudication standards; and
(5) that the DOD continued to be a prominent player in the overall security clearance reform effort, which includes entities within the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Thoughts on the GAO Cited Improvements to the DOD Security Clearance Program
The changes noted in the GAO Report are positive in general. In practice, our security clearance practice clients are most concerned with the timing of adjudications, soimething that has shortened with the latest review by the GAO. Hopefully, this is a sign of future efficiency in processing security clearance matters for federal employees and contractors.