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Washington, D.C. -- The backlog of federal employees, job applicants and government contractors waiting for background investigations that lead to top-secret security clearances shrank this year by 25 percent, and the average time to process the highest-level priority cases was cut by 43 days, to a little more than three months.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Linda M. Springer today provided an update on the security clearance front to Senator George Voinovich (OH) and members of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia.
The decrease in the average time for completing background investigations is an important accomplishment toward meeting requirements of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which includes a 90-day limit for completing investigations, as well as making other enhancements.
Last June, OPM testified before the subcommittee on the steps it would take to upgrade and expedite the federal investigative process. At today's hearing, Springer re-committed OPM to completing background investigations within the 90-day limit mandated by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act.
"We intend to meet that goal by adhering to the strategy laid out in the Plan for Improving the Personnel Security Clearance Process which was jointly prepared by OPM, the Office of Management and Budget, and major clearance-granting agencies across government," said Springer. "It represents the collective good faith efforts of all stakeholders to address the problems associated with the clearance process by outlining the roles and responsibilities of each party, action to be taken, and the agreed upon target goals and measures that need to be met in order for the program to succeed."
OPM is the primary provider of all levels of federal background and suitability investigations. Since absorbing the employees and caseload of the Defense Department's Defense Security Service in 2005, OPM now is responsible for approximately 90 percent of all federal background investigations. OPM expects to perform roughly 1.4 million background investigations this year.
Springer told the subcommittee that OPM's investigations staff totals 8,400 employees. Since June 2005, staffing levels have increased by 400 FTEs (full-time equivalents) to further reduce the existing case backlog and to adjust for the new work brought on by the DSS addition. She also credited OPM's e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing) for improving the timeliness and accuracy of information submitted by those undergoing security reviews.
OPM investigates individuals seeking work as an employee or contractor with any of the United States government's more than 100 departments and agencies. The agency also performs national security re-investigations of federal employees and contractors. Roughly 80 percent of OPM's current national security workload involves security investigations for DOD's military, civilian and contractor work force.
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.