WASHINGTON, D.C. â€” Reforms in the personnel security clearance process have improved the speed and efficiency of background investigations and adjudications with a direct, positive impact on the Defense Departmentâ€™s ability to carry out its mission, a senior defense official told Congress June 21.
Streamlined policy and processes have cut duplication and waste, Elizabeth A. McGrath, the Pentagonâ€™s deputy chief management officer, told a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Reforms also have reduced the time required to adjudicate clearances even lower than the 20-day goal Congress set in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, to as little as seven days, she reported.
McGrath attributed this success in large part to a new electronic adjudication capability developed by the Army and now deployed across DOD. The Case Adjudication Tracking System enabled the department to adjudicate 110,000 cases or 24 percent of its secret clearance applications â€” electronically last year, she said. This, in turn, freed up adjudicators to concentrate on other, more complex cases.
Other federal agencies have expressed interest in this technology, McGrath told the panel. So far, the Department of Energy has adopted the new system, and the Social Security Administration plans to do the same next year, she said.
In addition, DOD also has initiated a â€œrobustâ€ adjudicator certification program that ensures all adjudicators receive comprehensive, standardized training, McGrath reported.
â€œThe results are clear,â€ she said of the reform initiatives. â€œWe have a higher-quality security clearance program today.â€
One of the tangible measures of that progress was the Government Accountability Officeâ€™s removal of the DOD personnel security clearance process form its â€œHigh-Risk listâ€ last year, she noted. The list, provided to Congress every two years, identifies federal programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse mismanagement or in need of broad reform.
DODâ€™s improved personnel security clearance process has a sweeping impact on the Defense Department, McGrath said. â€œIt improves our ability to safeguard classified material, place qualified individuals in jobs faster, effectively use our contractor workforce, and reduce the burdens and inconveniences on both the federal workforce and our military members,â€ she reported.
Joining officials from the Government Accountability Office, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management and Office of the Director of National intelligence at todayâ€™s hearing, McGrath credited the Joint Reform Team founded five years ago with paving the way for these strides.
One of the big outcomes, she said, was the establishment of the Performance Accountability Council that bridges agency divides and keeps each agency on track toward even greater efficiencies.
The work isnâ€™t yet done, McGrath said, emphasizing the importance of continued collaboration in reaching toward greater efficiencies and cost-effectiveness in background investigations and adjudications.
â€œOur results represent the progress possible when agencies commit to joint goals informed by government-wide priorities and establish proper controls to ensure results,â€ she said.