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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Linda M. Springer today joined officials from her own agency, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Security Service, and the Information Security Oversight Office to update contractors and industry officials on the progress being made to improve the timeliness and efficiency of background investigations for individuals working for the Federal government.
“OPM conducts 90 percent of government background investigations, and the volume of work continues to rise,” Springer said. “In spite of this, we are making steady progress in reducing the caseload of investigations in progress at all levels.”
Kathy Dillaman, who heads the Federal Investigative Services Division for OPM, spoke to the assembly about the rising workload and improved timeliness. She said the number of Top Secret cases OPM was handling per month had increased from approximately 3,000 in 2004 to 7,000 or more in 2006. For Secret/Confidential clearance investigations, the number increased from approximately 14,000 per month in 2004 to 34,000 per month in 2006.
In spite of this meteoric rise, OPM continues to reduce the amount of time necessary for the agency to complete its part of the investigations, said Dillaman. For Top Secret investigations, the average completion time has been reduced from 341 days in February 2004 to 161 days in May 2006. For all others, the time has been reduced from 198 days in February 2004 to 144 days in May 2006. Average processing times for priority top secret clearances and all other clearances are 53 and 64 days respectively.
OPM inherited more than 145,000 investigations in process from the Defense Security Service in February 2005 and has reduced this caseload by more than 90 percent in just 15 months, with only 14,000 cases pending.
Dillaman cited a number of OPM improvements to account for these figures, including upgrades to the agency’s Clearance Verification System, which is available to all investigative service providers and clearance granting agencies to store and share information, eliminating redundancy and promoting reciprocal acceptance of clearance determinations. OPM transmits imaged fingerprints to the FBI electronically, and has enhanced and expanded the use of e-Qip to automatically collect, store, maintain and transmit data more quickly and efficiently.
Dillaman also said the agency has other initiatives underway to further reduce the number of cases in progress at OPM, including an expansion of the contract workforce to handle the elevated workload; working with the State Department and the Department of Defense to expand international investigations; and dedicating staff to assist in processing overdue requests.
“We are well on our way to meeting Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requirements of completing 80 percent of all initial clearance investigations within 90 days by the end of 2006,” Dillaman said. “Our ultimate goal is to reduce this to 40 days for 90 percent of investigations by 2009.”
“The goals we have set to improve the security clearance process are aggressive. Barriers will arise periodically that inhibit our progress. Working with the partner agencies and interested Members of Congress, I am certain we will be successful in dramatically improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the security clearance process,” said Clay Johnson, Deputy Director for Management, OMB.
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.