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GAO: ODNI Should Develop Policy, Implementation Plan for Continuous Evaluation of Clearance Holders

The Government Accountability Office has urged the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to create a formal policy and implementation plan for the continuous evaluation of clearance holders and employees in sensitive positions across the executive branch.

GAO said Tuesday ODNI has taken steps to implement continuous evaluation but the agency has yet to define key aspects of the program as well as plans to implement, monitor and measure program performance.

The continuous evaluation program is an executive branch effort to more frequently identify and evaluate security-related information, including criminal activity.

ODNI lacks a formal policy on the scope of continuous evaluation, an implementation plan and a timeline for future program phases, GAO reported.

Officials from seven executive branch agencies told GAO that ODNI’s uncertainty has hampered their ability to plan for continuous evaluation and estimate costs.

Among the agencies reviewed by GAO, 84 percent reported that they met the executive branch’s 195-day timeliness goal for completing periodic reinvestigations of clearance holders during at least three of four quarters in fiscal year 2012.

Only 22 percent of reviewed agencies met the goal in FY 2016, GAO revealed.

ODNI introduced a plan to replace periodic reinvestigations with continuous evaluation in a 2008 report, but new documents indicate that the agency has abandoned the plan, GAO found.

Officials from five agencies told GAO that continuous evaluation will increase workloads and costs if other background investigation requirements remain unchanged, while Defense Department officials claimed that DoD cannot afford to perform both reinvestigations and continuous evaluation.

GAO recommended ODNI to formalize its policy on continuous evaluation; create plans for program implementation performance measurement; and determine the potential impact of continuous evaluation on agency resources.

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