DOD PersonnelInadequate Personnel Security Investigations Pose National Security Risks Gao ID: NSIAD-00-12 October 27, 1999
Security investigations for Defense Department (DOD) personnel are incomplete and are not done in a timely manner. As a result, they pose a risk to national security by making DOD vulnerable to espionage. For example, 16 percent of the 530 security investigations GAO reviewed identified issues that the Defense Security Service did not pursue. These issues included individuals' prior criminal history, alcohol and drug use, and financial problems. Also, half of the 530 investigations took 204 or more days to complete even though the military wants them completed in 90 days. This slowness causes defense contractors to incur costs because their personnel cannot start work on military contracts without a security clearance. Also, about 600,000 individuals holding clearances are overdue for reinvestigations. DOD is taking steps to address these problems, but it will take considerable time and money to identify and implement the actions and additional steps needed.
GAO noted that: (1) DOD personnel security investigations are incomplete and not conducted in a timely manner; (2) as a result, they pose a risk to national security by making DOD vulnerable to espionage; (3) in the 530 cases GAO reviewed, DOD granted clearances notwithstanding that: (a) 92 percent of the 530 investigations were deficient in that they did not contain the information in at least one of the nine investigative areas required by the federal standards for granting clearances; (b) 77 percent of the investigations were deficient in meeting federal standards in two or more areas; and (c) 16 percent of the investigations identified issues that the Defense Security Service did not pursue pertaining to individuals' prior criminal history, alcohol and drug use, financial difficulties, and other problems that could be cause to deny a security clearance; (4) Defense Security Service clearance investigations are also not timely; (5) half of the 530 investigations GAO reviewed took 204 or more days to complete even though DOD components and contractors requesting the investigations want them completed in 90 days; (6) completeness and timeliness problems in DOD's personnel security program have resulted largely from a series of Defense Security Service management actions that weakened quality assurance and led to delays in processing cases; (7) DOD is taking steps to address these problems; however, it will take a significant amount of time and money to identify and implement all of the actions and steps needed; (8) DOD recently appointed a new acting Defense Security Service Director who has: (a) negotiated with the Office of Personnel Management and private contractors to assist in eliminating the large backlog of clearance reinvestigations; (b) directed a review of all investigative policies; (c) begun reinstating quality control mechanisms and established a new training organization; and (d) appointed a team to assess automation problems; (9) DOD has not developed a strategic plan for the program that includes measurable program goals and performance measures; (10) DOD has recognized the need for a strategic plan for the personnel security investigation program, but the plan is only in the early stages of development; and (11) moreover, despite the serious and widespread nature of the completeness and timeliness problems affecting the personnel security investigation program, DOD has not planned to report these problems as material weaknesses under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: