Nuclear Security:

DOE Needs a More Accurate and Efficient Security Clearance Program

RCED-88-28: Published: Dec 29, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) personnel clearance and security program, including: (1) the timeliness of the process for granting, suspending, and revoking clearances; (2) factors that affect the clearance work load; and (3) the accuracy of DOE clearance databases.

GAO found that: (1) because DOE personnel security clearance processes were lengthy, they lowered productivity, increased costs, and posed security concerns; (2) clearance staffs lacked resources to complete some clearance steps; (3) DOE has not fully implemented steps to reduce clearance levels that are too high or to terminate unnecessary clearances; and (4) contractors failed to obtain pre-employment information (PEI) on job applicants before hiring them. GAO also found that DOE security clearance files were inaccurate because: (1) DOE created new databases without validating the data; (2) field offices often failed to enter new data; (3) contractors', field offices', and headquarters' databases did not communicate effectively; and (4) DOE did not always validate database information.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Authorities and procedures were published in DOE Order 5635.1A.

    Recommendation: To improve control of classified information, the Secretary of Energy should revise its regulations governing the need-to-know principle to establish the appropriate approval level for need-to-know decisions and indicate how such decisions should be made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A decision was made at the end of the modernization project to not require consolidation.

    Recommendation: To ensure a reliable and efficient security clearance database, the Secretary of Energy should determine whether one DOE database, properly maintained, can serve all DOE clearance needs, including those of its contractors, rather than keeping the current multi-layered system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Modernization of system and data file reconciliation is completed.

    Recommendation: To ensure a reliable and efficient security clearance database, the Secretary of Energy should validate the accuracy and completeness of its security clearance database from the contractor files to the Central Personnel Clearance Index and develop appropriate updating techniques to ensure they remain current.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Deputy Secretary, on December 30, 1992, directed that the Hearing Officer function be assigned to Hearings and Appeals. Transition of this function from Security Affairs took place during fiscal year 1993. In addition, 10 C.F.R. 710 was modified to reflect the changes and was published in the Federal Register. All actions are complete.

    Recommendation: To improve the timeliness of security clearance processing and avoid unnecessary costs and adverse impacts on security and productivity, the Secretary of Energy should assess whether a simplified administrative review process is appropriate for DOE and, if so, adopt it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE is continuing its re-evaluation of the potential for staff realignments and use of contractors as part of periodic program reviews and resource planning.

    Recommendation: To improve the timeliness of security clearance processing and avoid unnecessary costs and adverse impacts on security and productivity, the Secretary of Energy should take needed actions to ensure that sufficient staff are assigned to implement and adhere to those time frames.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Time standards were published in DOE Order 5631.2B.

    Recommendation: To improve the timeliness of security clearance processing and avoid unnecessary costs and adverse impacts on security and productivity, the Secretary of Energy should establish required time frames for accomplishing all major security clearance steps.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE orders on drugs in facilities were revised.

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of the PEI process, the Secretary of Energy should amend its regulations to require contractors, as part of PEI, to specifically address drug and other substance abuse in the determination of employee suitability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has taken actions to fully implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of the PEI process, the Secretary of Energy should ensure contractor compliance with security clearance PEI requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A video tape was completed and distributed to facilities to be used as annual training refreshers.

    Recommendation: To improve control of classified information, the Secretary of Energy should revise its security training program to: (1) develop more uniform need-to-know training materials that cover all aspects of the principle, including specific instructions on implementation; and (2) ensure that such training is provided annually to employees as currently required.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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