Security Clearances in the Government Sector: What’s Taking So Long?

Background clearances have been making the news in the past few months as government security clearance processing times continue to rise. Through today, the Defense Security Service (DSS) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) continue to report serious delays in the processing of initial security investigations and reinvestigations. In late June 2015, the OPM reported a data breach that comprised the data of 21.5 million Americans and led to the shutdown of their online government background investigation system for weeks to address and patch vulnerabilities. The same is true for the DSS, who completely stopped processing cases that were not seen as critical in the month of December due to a budget issue. This resulted in a backlog of over 10,000

cases. While case processing resumed in January 2016, it is taking a significant amount of time for DSS to work their way through the resulting backlog. Fast forward to mid-2016 and the backlogs are still affecting operations today, as OPM reports reinvestigations taking an average of 251 days.

With estimates of case backlogs running up to six months behind, government contractors are still being affected by these backlogs as security clearance delays impede their ability to initiate or renew clearances, staff high-level projects and ultimately meet project deadlines. Efforts have been made by the OPM to expedite processes. In early January, OPM established a new agency for background checks to absorb the Federal Investigative Services (FIS) and discussed additional plans of hiring 400 new background check investigators to areas of high demand. While both the OPM and DSS remain optimistic and have been able to increase their processes to about 1,000 per day, the backlog remains a concern for contractors in the government sector.