Security Investigations:

State Department Employee Investigation Practices Can Be Improved

NSIAD-89-21: Published: Nov 7, 1988. Publicly Released: Nov 9, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's procedures for conducting security investigations of its foreign service and civilian personnel.

GAO found that State: (1) generally conducted its preemployment background investigations according to established requirements and procedures; (2) did not complete two-thirds of its investigations within 90 days, but averaged about 140 days; (3) did not reinvestigate about 75 percent of its long-term employees or have a tracking system to identify employees who needed routine investigations; (4) used its investigative resources primarily on suitability reviews to reduce the number of applicants for foreign service positions; and (5) had no plan to eliminate its large overall backlog of reinvestigations. GAO also found that: (1) 70 percent of State employees did not submit the required personal information as part of their security reinvestigations despite repeated requests; (2) State did not take any disciplinary actions against those delinquent employees; and (3) periodic reinvestigations could increase the likelihood of uncovering serious drug, alcohol, financial, or other problems that could make individuals susceptible to compromising national security.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State is advising its employees that security clearances will be temporarily suspended if the appropriate security forms are not received by the due date.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should enforce regulations requiring employees to complete and submit security questionnaires as part of the reinvestigative process.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State is developing the recommended automated system and data is being gathered for its implementation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should set up a system for routinely identifying employees who need to be reinvestigated.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State raised the priority of reinvestigations and estimated that 2,000 reinvestigations would be completed in 1989. State developed a plan to eliminate the entire reinvestigation backlog by 1992.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish and vigorously implement a plan for eliminating the backlog of reinvestigations and bring the Department of State into compliance with federal regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State added six positions in the Personnel Investigations and Evaluation Divisions to help handle investigative work load.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop investigative mechanisms to ensure timely completion of all required elements of a security review to meet State's established goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State added positions, increased the number of reinvestigations, and developed a plan to eliminate the backlog of reinvestigations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that adequate resources are devoted to completing the reinvestigative functions required by federal regulations before expending such resources on suitability reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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