DOD Personnel:

Inadequate Personnel Security Investigations Pose National Security Risks

NSIAD-00-12: Published: Oct 27, 1999. Publicly Released: Nov 3, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) personnel security investigative functions, focusing on; (1) the completeness and timeliness of DOD personnel security investigations; (2) what factors, if any, might be hindering the completeness and timeliness of the investigations; and (3) what actions DOD has taken to address any program weaknesses.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD personnel security investigations are incomplete and not conducted in a timely manner; (2) as a result, they pose a risk to national security by making DOD vulnerable to espionage; (3) in the 530 cases GAO reviewed, DOD granted clearances notwithstanding that: (a) 92 percent of the 530 investigations were deficient in that they did not contain the information in at least one of the nine investigative areas required by the federal standards for granting clearances; (b) 77 percent of the investigations were deficient in meeting federal standards in two or more areas; and (c) 16 percent of the investigations identified issues that the Defense Security Service did not pursue pertaining to individuals' prior criminal history, alcohol and drug use, financial difficulties, and other problems that could be cause to deny a security clearance; (4) Defense Security Service clearance investigations are also not timely; (5) half of the 530 investigations GAO reviewed took 204 or more days to complete even though DOD components and contractors requesting the investigations want them completed in 90 days; (6) completeness and timeliness problems in DOD's personnel security program have resulted largely from a series of Defense Security Service management actions that weakened quality assurance and led to delays in processing cases; (7) DOD is taking steps to address these problems; however, it will take a significant amount of time and money to identify and implement all of the actions and steps needed; (8) DOD recently appointed a new acting Defense Security Service Director who has: (a) negotiated with the Office of Personnel Management and private contractors to assist in eliminating the large backlog of clearance reinvestigations; (b) directed a review of all investigative policies; (c) begun reinstating quality control mechanisms and established a new training organization; and (d) appointed a team to assess automation problems; (9) DOD has not developed a strategic plan for the program that includes measurable program goals and performance measures; (10) DOD has recognized the need for a strategic plan for the personnel security investigation program, but the plan is only in the early stages of development; and (11) moreover, despite the serious and widespread nature of the completeness and timeliness problems affecting the personnel security investigation program, DOD has not planned to report these problems as material weaknesses under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: Because of the significant weaknesses in the DOD personnel security investigation program and the program's importance to national security, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) to improve its oversight of the Defense Security Service personnel security investigation program, including approving a Defense Security Service strategic plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Because of the significant weaknesses in the Department of Defense personnel security investigation program and the program's importance to national security, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) to identify and prioritize overdue reinvestigations, in coordination with other DOD components, and fund and implement initiatives to conduct these reinvestigations in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to develop a corrective action plan as required under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act that incorporates corrective actions and milestones for addressing material weaknesses in the Defense Security Service personnel security investigative program and performance measures for monitoring the progress of corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to establish a strategic plan that includes agency goals, performance measures, and procedures for tracking progress in meeting goals in accordance with sound management practices and the Government Performance and Results Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to conduct analyses needed to: (1) determine an appropriate workload that investigators and case analysts can manage while meeting federal standards; and (2) develop an overall strategy and resource plan to improve the quality and timeliness of investigations and reduce the number of overdue reinvestigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to review and clarify all investigative policy guidance to ensure that investigations comply with federal standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to establish a process for identifying and forwarding to the Security Policy Board suggested changes to policy guidance concerning the implementation of the federal standards and other investigative policy issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to establish formal quality control mechanisms to ensure that defense Security Service or contracted investigators perform high-quality investigations, including periodic reviews of samples of completed investigations and feedback on problems to senior managers, investigators, and trainers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to establish a training infrastructure for basic and continuing investigator and case analyst training that includes formal feedback mechanisms to assess training needs and measure effectiveness, and as a high priority, provide training on complying with federal investigative standards for investigators and case analysts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Defense Security Service Director, with oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence), to take steps to correct the case management automation problems to gain short-term capability and develop long-term, cost-effective automation alternatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Because of the significant weaknesses in the DOD personnel security investigation program and the program's importance to national security, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) to report the personnel security investigation program as a material weakness under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act to ensure that the needed oversight is provided and that actions are taken to correct the systemic problems in the Defense Security Service personnel security investigation program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct all DOD adjudication facility officials to: (1) grant clearances only when all essential investigative work has been done; and (2) regularly communicate with the Defense Security Service about continuing investigative weaknesses and needed corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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