DOD Personnel:

Inadequate Personnel Security Investigations Pose National Security Risks

T-NSIAD-00-65: Published: Feb 16, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 16, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Defense Security Service's (DSS) personnel security investigations, focusing on the: (1) completeness and timeliness of the agency's investigations; and (2) factors that contributed to the deficiencies GAO found.

GAO noted that: (1) safeguarding sensitive national security information is one of the most important responsibilities entrusted to public servants; (2) GAO's evaluation of DSS personnel security investigations revealed serious lapses in the thoroughness and timeliness of the investigations, raising questions about the risks such lapses pose to national security; (3) 530 personnel security investigations showed the vast majority did not comply with federal standards for conducting such investigations; (4) all of the individuals investigated were granted top secret security clearances even though DSS investigators had not always verified such basic information as residency, citizenship, or employment; (5) DSS investigations had not been completed in a timely manner and there is a backlog of over 600,000 cases for reinvestigation; (6) as a result, some of the Department of Defense's (DOD) 2.4 million personnel currently holding security clearances may be handling sensitive national security information without having been thoroughly screened; (7) in 1994, the Joint Security Commission reported that delays in obtaining security clearances cost DOD several billion dollars because workers were unable to perform their jobs while awaiting a clearance; (8) GAO identified a series of ineffective management reforms at DSS that occurred from 1996 through early 1999; (9) GAO found that DSS--in an effort to streamline operations and improve efficiency--relaxed its investigative guidance, eliminated key quality control mechanisms, inadequately trained its investigators, and ineffectively managed automation of its case processing system; (10) however, the underlying cause of DSS problems is insufficient oversight by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence); and (11) GAO believes that these factors led to incomplete investigations and exacerbated the growing backlog of uninvestigated cases.

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