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Washington, D.C. -- An official with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management today informed Congress of the "significant progress" being made in the timely investigation of federal job applicants, employees and contractors. OPM's background investigations set the foundation for speedy agency rulings on an individual's suitability for federal employment, or whether a security clearance should be granted.
Kathy L. Dillaman, Associate Director of the Federal Investigative Services Division (FISD), said OPM and the major clearance-granting agencies have worked together to meet timeliness requirements for performing investigations and making adjudication decisions as mandated by President George W. Bush and the Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
"While improving the timeliness of investigations, we have been vigilant in maintaining the quality of our investigative products," said Dillaman. "We have developed additional internal quality control processes to ensure the quality of completed investigations... (and) less than 1 percent of all completed investigations are returned to OPM from the adjudicating agencies for quality deficiencies."
OPM's inventory of initial and reinvestigations totaled 385,695 in October 2006; that inventory was reduced by nearly 285,000 cases, to 100,869 by April 2007, a 74 percent reduction. Dillaman expects the reinvestigations pipeline to be fully cleared by October 1, 2007. In addition, she said it took OPM on average 78 days to complete 80 percent of the 137,925 initial clearance investigations received in the first quarter of fiscal '07 (October 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006). In fact, she noted that 27,821 of those cases were completed in less than 45 days.
Dillaman's testimony came before the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. The subcommittee is chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka (Hawaii); George Voinovich (Ohio) is the subcommittee's ranking member.
Recently, OPM Director Linda M. Springer said the significance of the intelligence reform law cannot be understated.
"This is not about creating goals for the sake of goals; this is about showing respect to job applicants and others who are anxious to perform public service and work for the American people. These individuals and their talents are in high demand, and if we don't show them how much we value them as professionals and what they bring to the table, they will go elsewhere."
Dillaman told the subcommittee OPM expects to conduct 1.7 million suitability and clearance investigations in fiscal 2007, an increase of 100,000 over the previous fiscal year. While agency estimates of their investigations needs support her estimate, Dillaman said agencies' growing use of e-QIP to electronically transmit information on individuals to be investigated makes it possible for OPM to handle the increase. She credited agency use of e-QIP with reducing incomplete submissions and cutting processing times to 14 days from 30 days.
Since absorbing the investigations responsibilities of the Defense Security Service in 2005, OPM conducts approximately 90 percent of all background investigations leading to the issuance of suitability decisions or security clearances for civilian, military and contractor personnel.
FISD currently has almost 9,000 federal and contractor staff devoted to the background investigations program, including 6,800 federal and contractor field investigators. They are strategically located throughout the United States and overseas to facilitate and expedite investigations.
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.