Personnel Security:

Pass and Security Clearance Data for the Executive Office of the President

NSIAD-96-20: Published: Oct 19, 1995. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the White House's procedures for issuing access passes and security clearances, focusing on the: (1) steps involved in the access pass approval process; and (2) internal controls over the access pass and security clearance processes.

GAO found that: (1) individuals entering on duty during 1993 received final approval for permanent White House access passes an average of 346 days from their start date, but the average time of approval fell to 98 days for staff entering in 1994; (2) according to White House officials, the White House has not historically tracked time interval data related to the access pass process, thus GAO could not compare the information it analyzed to prior experience; (3) the longer time needed to process 1993 entrants was primarily attributable to the time individuals took to complete the SF-86 and to subsequent actions taken by the Executive Office of the President; (4) these actions include the time taken to review the SF-86, and then to review the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigative report and other reports, and recommend that a permanent access pass be approved; (5) during 1993, there were no written time standards for completing the various access pass processes, except for goals set by the FBI relating to its segment of the process; (6) the White House set a standard in March 1994 that gave each employee 30 days to complete SF-86; (7) Public Law 103-329, enacted in September 1994, made this standard a legal requirement and also mandated that, with certain exceptions, an appropriate access pass be recommended for approval within 6 months after an individual entered on duty with the Executive Office of the President; (8) the FBI raised its goal for completing background investigations from 45 days to 60 days in late 1994; (9) although the FBI did not always meet this goal, FBI and Secret Service actions did not substantially add to the processing time in 1993; (10) White House and congressional actions have established process changes and controls to improve the access pass and security clearance processes; (11) for the time intervals and offices GAO reviewed, with few exceptions, the time intervals declined, and the procedures were adhered to; (12) GAO's observations indicate a potential for strengthening controls in several selected areas, particularly at the start of a new administration; and (13) the areas related to renewing temporary passes, revoking passes after separation, and granting security clearances.

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