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GAO Says Security Clearance Program a Model for Performance Management

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The Defense Department‘s program for processing security clearances has seen a marked improvement in the past six years, according to the Government Accountability Office, who in 2005 placed the program on its high-risk list.

In a 63-page report published Friday, GAO examined the role Congress plays in helping federal agencies with their performance. In January, Congress updated the nearly 20-year old Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which requires more frequent performance reviews and reports.

The updated legislation also requires agencies to, among other things, have four-year strategic plans that coincide with presidential terms and submit reports on unmet performance goals.

GAO said it placed the clearance program on its high-risk list, and then kept it there in 2007 and 2009, because of “delays and problems with the quality of investigations and adjudications.”

Congress intially passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004, which established a goal of processing the fastest 90 percent of clearance applications within 60 days. Congress then held oversight hearings after GAO placed the clearance program on its high-risk list.

In the Intelligence Authorization Act of fiscal year 2010, Congress required annual reports on the number of contractors and federal employees with clearances and the amount of time it takes to process a clearance.

As a result, GAO said, it took an average of 60 days to process a clearance application in fiscal year 2010, largely meeting the goal set in 2004. GAO also credited the Pentagon with implementing quality assessment tools to measure performance in both investigations and adjudications.

As a result, GAO said it removed the clearance program from its high-risk list this year.

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