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entitled 'Personnel Clearances: Questions for the Record Regarding 
Security Clearance Reform' which was released on July 14, 2008.

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July 14, 2008: 

The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka:
The Honorable George V. Voinovich:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal 
Workforce and the District of Columbia: 
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: 
United States Senate: 

Subject: Personnel Clearances: Questions for the Record Regarding 
Security Clearance Reform: 

On May 22, 2008, I testified before your subcommittee at a hearing on 
Security Clearance Reform.[Footnote 1] This letter responds to three 
questions for the record you posed. Your questions and my responses 

1. Your testimony indicates that a greater emphasis on quality 
throughout the clearance process could promote reciprocity. Have you 
noted any efforts in the Joint Reform Team report to address the 
quality of investigative and adjudicative work and if not, can you 
suggest some steps that might be taken? 

Through our reports and testimonies, we have emphasized a need to build 
more quality and quality monitoring into the clearance process. For 
example, in our September 2006 report,[Footnote 2] we identified 
concerns about quality in the personnel security clearance process and 
noted that the lack of full reciprocity of clearances--when a security 
clearance granted by one agency is accepted by another agency--is an 
outgrowth of agencies' concerns that other agencies may have granted 
clearances based on inadequate investigations and adjudications. As I 
noted in my May 22, 2008, testimony, we believe quality metrics should 
be applied throughout all six phases of the security clearance process 
(i.e., requirements setting, application submission, investigation, 
adjudication, appeal, and clearance updating). In addition, we have 
initiated discussions with the Office of Management and Budget and the 
Office of Personnel Management about the importance of including 
quality in the security clearance process. 

At the request of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 
we recently initiated an engagement assessing the Joint Reform Team's 
plans to reform the security clearance process. In this review, we will 
assess whether the Joint Reform Team's plan and its ongoing efforts 
address the key factors I discussed at your hearing on May 22, 2008, 
one of which is building more quality and quality monitoring throughout 
the clearance process. In a separate engagement initiated under the 
authority of the Comptroller General, we are evaluating both the 
quality and timeliness of the Department of Defense's (DOD) personnel 
security clearances. To evaluate quality in this engagement, we are 
surveying DOD adjudicators--who review clearance investigation files to 
determine clearance eligibility--and evaluating clearance adjudication 
files. When we complete this engagement, we will be available to 
provide a briefing about our findings to you and your staff on request. 

2. Since the Department of Defense (DOD) was put on GAO's high-risk 
list, GAO has been recommending DOD develop methods to better forecast 
long-term funding needs for the clearance process. What are your 
thoughts on the steps taken by the Defense Security Service (DSS), 
including its use of a refined web-based survey, to better forecast its 

In our February 2008 report on DOD's personnel security program for 
industry,[Footnote 3] we reported that DOD's procedures for projecting 
its long-term funding needs for industry personnel security clearances 
are evolving. While conducting the audit work for this report, DOD 
officials explained to us that the Defense Security Service (DSS) is 
responsible for conducting an annual survey of contractors performing 
classified work for the government. In this survey, DSS asks 
contractors to estimate their future clearance investigation needs for 
industry personnel. The survey results are used to forecast estimates 
of the future investigation workload and budget requirements. In its 
efforts to improve the accuracy of these estimates, DSS has made 
several recent changes. In 2006, for example, DSS made its annual 
survey accessible through the Internet. In addition, DSS has begun to 
use its field staff to actively encourage industry representatives to 
complete the voluntary survey. According to a DSS official, these two 
changes increased the response rate of surveyed facilities from 
historical lows of between 10 and 15 percent in previous years to a 70 
percent response rate in 2007, representing 86 percent of industry 
personnel with a clearance in fiscal year 2007. Improvements in the 
survey response rate may help DOD to improve its forecasts of long-term 
funding needs for the industry personnel security program. Improvements 
to DOD's long-term funding forecasts would help enable it to implement 
the recommendation we made in our February 2008 report to add 
additional out-years of projected funding information to its annual 
report to Congress on the personnel security clearance program for 

3. What suggestions do you have for the Joint Reform Team and Congress 
as we move forward with plans to reform the security clearance process? 

As the Joint Reform Team continues with its efforts to reform the 
security clearance process, we suggest that it review our past reports 
and testimonies on personnel security clearances to understand the 
weaknesses we have previously identified in the process and the 
recommendations we have made to help DOD address those weaknesses. Our 
previous work in this area has provided us with broad institutional 
knowledge, enabling us to identify key factors that should be 
considered in security clearance reform efforts. As I emphasized in my 
May 22, 2008, statement, efforts to reform personnel security clearance 
processes should consider, among other things, the following four key 
factors: (1) a strong requirements determination process, (2) quality 
in all clearance processes, (3) metrics to provide a fuller picture of 
clearance processes, and (4) long-term funding requirements of security 
clearance reform. As the Joint Reform Team moves forward, we suggest 
that it design its approach to ensure that these key factors are 
incorporated into the reformed process. 

Past experience has shown that Congress has every reason to remain 
vigilant and continue its oversight of this high-risk area. The Joint 
Reform Team's initial efforts to develop a new governmentwide security 
clearance process represent a positive step toward addressing past 
impediments and managing security reform efforts. However, continued 
oversight will help ensure that the momentum of these initial reform 
efforts continues, particularly as the upcoming change in 
administration takes place. Much remains to be done to improve the 
security clearance process governmentwide, and GAO stands ready to 
assist Congress in its continued oversight of this high-risk area. 

If you or other members of the subcommittee have any additional 
questions about personnel security clearance reform, please contact me 
at (202) 512-3604 or In addition, contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this correspondence. GAO staff members who made 
major contributions to this correspondence are listed in the enclosure. 

Signed by: 

Brenda S. Farrell:
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 


Enclosure I: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact Brenda S. Farrell, (202) 512-3604 or 

Acknowledgments In addition to the contact above, David E. Moser, 
Assistant Director; Renee S. Brown; Shvetal Khanna; James P. Klein; 
Caryn E. Kuebler; Ronald La Due Lake; and Gregory A. Marchand made key 
contributions to this correspondence. 

[End of correspondence] 


[1] GAO, Personnel Clearances: Key Factors for Reforming the Security 
Clearance Process, [hyperlink,
776T[ (Washington, D.C.: May 22, 2008). 

[2] GAO, DOD Personnel Clearances: Additional OMB Actions Are Needed to 
Improve the Security Clearance Process, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 
28, 2006). 

[3] GAO, DOD Personnel Clearances: Improved Annual Reporting Would 
Enable More Informed Congressional Oversight, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 
13, 2008). 

[End of section] 

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