After falling behind timelines to complete security clearances for years, the Pentagon has finally caught up, but concerns with the quality of the clearances remain, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. The Defense Department’s security clearance program is under greater scrutiny following the leak of 500,000 classified pages of documents on WikiLeaks earlier this year.
Congress mandated improvements in federal security clearances through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004. Since 2005, the Pentagon has been on the GAO’s “high-risk” list for its persistent delays in meeting benchmarks on security clearance fixes.
As recently as 2007, the Pentagon took an average of 325 days to complete most security clearances – clearances which were supposed to be done within 120 days. The agency has significantly cut delays since then, and in 2010, met the latest guidelines – that the vast majority of clearances take an average of just 60 days.
“Reducing delays in the security clearance process will enable the Department of Defense to reduce risks to national security,” said the GAO.
But the quality of the clearance process is still a concern. The Department of Defense created two electronic tools to help assess quality, but failed to fully implement them. The GAO found “an uneven attention to quality within DOD’s process,” according to the report. Documentation was missing in reports used to make clearance decisions, and the agency could not explain why.
The GAO will review the Pentagon’s compliance status in January 2011.
FAST FACT: The Pentagon processed about 630,000 security clearances in 2008 alone.
Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.
* The Fed and Treasury Dept. should subject banks to stress tests to measure their ability to weather a potential crisis from robo-signed mortgages and other irregularities that could force originating lenders to take the mortgages back on their books. (Congressional Oversight Panel)
* A long-awaited FDIC report on the Broadway Bank in Chicago attributes the bank’s failure to high-risk loans in commercial real estate, and to massive lending in New York and Florida. Democratic Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias was a loan officer at his family-owned bank until 2006, and the opposition had pushed for the report to be completed prior to Election Day. Giannoulias was defeated. (FDIC)
* The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services set Jan. 11 as the deadline for public comments on how it should update and clarify its 10-year-old database of health care professionals excluded from the Medicare and Medicaid programs because of fraud, patient abuse, licensing board actions, and student health education loan defaults. (OIG)
* The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lacks a standard method for keeping its screeners up-to-date with training and education. Some airport screeners described being rushed through course materials or not receiving adequate training time. (Department of Homeland Security)
* The Navy’s public shipyards, which support fleet readiness and worldwide operations, need a better process for prioritizing restoration and modernization work. The Navy is limited in its ability to allocate resources to the shipyards, primarily due to a lack of adequate information. (GAO)