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News Release

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Shortens Federal Investigations Processing Time

Director John Berry announces process has been cut from one year to 37 day average

Washington, D.C.  --  U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Berry today told the United States Senate how OPM has increased the efficiency in which the Federal government completes its security clearances. Exceeding Federal timelines, OPM completed 90 percent of background investigations in an average of 37 days. Director Berry presented this testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.

"I am extremely proud of the progress my team has made eliminating the backlog of background investigations, meeting stringent timeliness goals and sustaining a focus on quality," Berry told the subcommittee. "Our Investigative Service Division processes nearly 20 times as many cases as in 1997 and with an average speed of 72 days compared to a previous wait time of well-over a year in 2001. This is a remarkable increase in efficiency of service to the American public."

Berry was invited to speak before the subcommittee by Chairman Daniel Akaka (HI). In his testimony, the Director noted that OPM has eliminated a backlog of more than half a million pending background investigations inherited from the Department of Defense in 2005.  At that time, the average time needed to obtain a Top Secret security clearance was in excess of one year; today it is 72 days. This year, OPM will complete more than two million investigations. In addition, nearly one million law enforcement agency record checks previously conducted manually each year by field agents nationwide or through mailed inquiries have been converted to centralized automated records checks. This allows OPM to use its investigators and resources more effectively and at lower cost.

While underscoring OPM's accomplishments on timeliness, Berry promised not to sacrifice quality. "Just as OPM has been aggressive in our efforts to meet the timeliness goals set forth by the Intelligence Reform Act, we remain equally dedicated to providing quality products to our customer agencies."

In 2004, Congress identified a broken security clearance process that had become a barrier to the timely appointment of new Federal employees. In response, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRPTA) of 2004 was enacted to provide a solution to the problem. As a result, the majority of Federal background investigations were transferred from other agencies to OPM, while a mandate was set requiring the completion of 90 percent of investigations within an average of 40 calendar days, increasing the workload of the agency by over one million investigations per year. This year, OPM will complete more than two million investigations.

Additional points made in the testimony include:

  • OPM has electronically delivered more than 600,000 investigations this year to agencies, eliminating mail and handling time between OPM and its customers.
  • OPM has automated processing systems to an integrated suite of applications, allowing for secure and dependable web-based interaction between subjects, their employing agencies, and OPM.
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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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