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DIRECTOR U.S. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT OF GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT, THE FEDERAL WORKFORCE, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS UNITED STATES SENATE
SECURITY CLEARANCE REFORM: SETTING A COURSE FOR SUSTAINABILITY
November 16, 2010
Co-Chairman Thibault, Co-Chairman Shays, and Commissioners:
Chairman Akaka, Senator Voinovich, and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) role in the Federal government’s security clearance reform effort. OPM has been committed to overhauling the security clearance process from the onset, with the goal of improving timeliness, quality, and efficiency. Our current success is due in large part to our partnership with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Defense (DoD), and our other customer agencies. By focusing on the entire process, from beginning-to-end, holding all stakeholders accountable, and advancing the use of information technology, we have developed a modernized approach to processing security clearances that will be substantially operational by the end of this calendar year. We look forward to sustaining the course of reform well into the future.
OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) provides background investigation products and services to agencies. These products and services are then utilized as a basis for making security clearance, suitability, or fitness determinations. Since absorbing DoD’s background investigations program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, OPM has conducted over 90% of the background investigations required by the Federal government. Last year, we conducted over 2 million investigations, including 600,000 that were used to support initial security clearance determinations.
Under the leadership of Associate Director Kathy Dillaman, FIS provides background investigations for over 100 Federal agencies, with approximately 10,000 submitting offices worldwide. Currently, FIS has more than 2,400 Federal employees and 6,700 contractors that form a nationwide network of field investigators and support staff as well as a cadre of Federal agents working abroad. To support the Government’s high-volume investigative requirements, FIS manages a complex suite of automated systems that have demonstrated ample capacity to efficiently handle this demanding workload.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) was enacted in the wake of September 11, 2001, with a tremendous national backlog of pending security clearance determinations. IRTPA set aggressive mandates for improved timeliness and required 90% of initial security clearance determinations to be completed within an average of 60 days (40 days for the investigation phase and 20 days for the adjudication phase) by December 2009. Through program efficiencies and expanded use of technology, OPM was able to meet and sustain this goal well ahead of deadline. In FY 2010, OPM completed 623,454 initial security clearance investigations. Of these, 90 percent were completed in an average of 39 days. The following chart shows the progress that OPM has made to achieve the IRTPA mandates:
Timeliness is in calendar days.
The Security and Suitability Process Reform Strategic Framework issued in February 2010 identified the goals of reform as they relate to the defined seven phases of processing that include: validate need; eApplication; automated records checks, eAdjudicate; enhanced subject interview; expandable focused investigation; and continuous evaluation/periodic investigations. OPM is responsible for a number of the initiatives supporting these goals. OPM is also continuously modernizing and expanding EPIC, our suite of automated tools that include: (1) the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP); (2) Personnel Investigations Processing System (PIPS); (3) OPM PIPS Imaging System (OPIS); (4) Central Verification System (CVS); (5) Fingerprint Transaction System (FTS); (6) Field Work System (FWS); (7) FIS Secure Portal, and (8) the Management Reporting System (Dashboard). EPIC provides investigative end-to-end automated support for background investigation, suitability, and security clearance processing. The program efficiencies gained from these efforts have contributed to improvements in processing times and overall cost savings.
Specific achievements include:
OPM has taken additional steps over the past year to promote the reciprocity of investigations and adjudicative decisions throughout the Federal government. OPM expanded the data fields in CVS, aligned its investigations with reform concepts, and standardized the use of the enhanced subject interviews to resolve issues. In addition, OPM updated its position designation system, an automated tool designed to assist agencies with determining the proper level of investigation and screening required based on an assessment of risk and national security sensitivity.
Later this month, OPM is hosting its annual Security Professional Seminar which will focus on reciprocity. Workshops are being designed to inform and reemphasize the tools and policies that support reciprocity.
OPM monitors compliance with reciprocity by measuring the number of investigation requests that were returned to an agency because an investigation already exists that would satisfy the agency’s request. OPM is working with the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) to develop additional metrics to measure compliance with reciprocity of investigations and adjudicative decisions.
As part of the PAC, OPM co-chairs the Training Subcommittee tasked with establishing training standards for background investigators, and security and suitability adjudicators. OPM led the two interagency workgroups that developed, piloted, and finalized the national training standards for suitability adjudication and background investigation training. Establishing one training standard across the Federal government will significantly enhance reciprocity.
OPM implemented two new services that allow our customer agencies to provide feedback on our investigative products. OPM also provides a toll-free quality hotline to report quality concerns and a web based quality assessment tool that allows adjudicators to provide OPM feedback on completed investigations. OPM uses the feedback provided to improve our products and services, and refine investigative policy and standards.
The considerable attention placed on reforming the security clearance process has dramatically improved the timeliness and quality of investigative products while significantly improving the Government’s ability to “hire the best” and efficiently put federal and contractor employees to work. With the broader reform effort substantially operational by the end of this calendar year, it is critical that we maintain timeliness and quality standards while ensuring that Government agencies comply with training, investigative, adjudicative, and reciprocity standards. We will continue to work with the OMB, ODNI, DoD, and other Federal agencies to sustain the momentum.
In conclusion, OPM wishes to thank Senator Voinovich for his leadership on reforming the security clearance process and for his many years of service to our country. Please accept our best wishes in your retirement.
Mr. Chairman, thank-you again for the opportunity to discuss OPM’s role in the security clearance reform process. I am happy to respond to any questions that you may have.
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