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Policy think tank: Security clearance process is dated, continuous evaluation needed

Vetting security clearance holders on an ongoing basis could save the federal government billions of dollars over the next two decades if they enrolled more security clearance holders into a continuous evaluation program, a new study finds.

A study by the RAND Corporation estimates that the federal government could save as much as $30 billion over the next 25 years by phasing out the periodic reinvestigation process and moving those with security clearances into a continuous evaluation program, which involves “vetting and adjudication process to review on an ongoing basis the background of an individual who has been determined eligible for access to classified information or to hold a sensitive position at any time during the period of eligibility."

Last year, there were approximately 416,000 security clearance investigations waiting to be processed, and approximately 156,000 unprocessed periodic reinvestigations, and the Office of Personnel Management, has been facing resource reductions, according to the study.

RAND concludes that the current process is time consuming and costly, while the new CE system would cost significantly less, would not be more intrusive and is more aligned with current technology.

“The United States currently employs a periodic and aperiodic investigative and adjudicative security clearance process with origins in the Second World War,” the study notes, adding, “Information systems and data — e.g., financial, legal, travel — on individuals have improved dramatically since the creation of this process.”

There also is no commonly shared definition of what an “insider threat” is across the government. They recommended, a common definition of insider threat, such as "the potential for an individual who has or had authorized access to an organization's assets to use their access, either maliciously or unintentionally, to act in a way that could negatively affect the organization or national security."

Other recommendations include:

- adding negligence as a type of insider threat;

- conducting thorough academic and scientific reviews of behavioral approaches predicting insider threat behavior before it occurs;

- creating a real-time reporting mechanism to supplement any future security clearance approach; and

- implementing security clearance reciprocity and suitability/fitness reciprocity across agencies.

The study findings and recommendations are available here.

Reader comments

Mon, Sep 9, 2019 Sam usa

The Republicans in Congress created this ongoing problem when they decided to Privatize career Federal employees jobs and contract out government work. There is CONSTANT turnover in Contractors and in Contractors employees. Nothing is a Secret anymore today as more and more and more Outside Contractor's employees gain access to government secrets.

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