DOD Personnel:

More Accurate Estimate of Overdue Security Clearance Reinvestigations Is Needed

T-NSIAD-00-246: Published: Sep 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) backlog of overdue personnel security reinvestigations, focusing on: (1) how DOD estimates estimates the backlog; (2) the soundness of DOD's backlog estimates; and (3) DOD's plans to address the backlog problem.

GAO noted that: (1) in the absence of a Department-wide database that can accurately measure the reinvestigation backlog, DOD the backlog on an ad hoc basis; (2) since 1998, various DOD estimates documents and statements have cited several widely divergent backlog estimates--ranging from about 452,000 to 992,000; (3) more recently, DOD has attempted to develop formal and more accurate estimates using two primary methods--manual counts and statistical sampling; (4) using the counting method, the military services and Defense agencies ask securities managers to review their personnel and count those overdue for reinvestigation; (5) DOD uses statistical analysis to refine rough--and known to be inaccurate--estimates extracted from existing security databases; (6) the reliability of DOD's recent formal backlog estimates is questionable because the estimates had methodological limitations, were 6 or more months old by the time they were reported and excluded thousands of overdue reinvestigations; (7) the military services used inconsistent methods and different time periods to determine their backlog counts, and DOD did not verify the accuracy of the counts; (8) using the counting method, DOD reported in January 2000 that the backlog totalled about 505,000; (9) using the sampling method, a DOD contractor reported in February 2000 that the backlog also totalled about-- 505,000; (10) however, both estimates excluded as many as 94,000 overdue reinvestigations that had been submitted for processing but were not yet completed as of February 2000; (11) knowing the accurate size of the backlog is an important step towards effectively managing and eventually eliminating the backlog; (12) DOD recognizes this and plans to implement a new personnel security database in mid-2001 designed to include information that could allow real-time counts of overdue reinvestigations; and (13) however, DOD has not specified how it plans to use the information in the new database to help manage the reinvestigation program or ensure that future reinvestigation requests are submitted when they are due.

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