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Why the Security Clearance Backlog?

Last week, I wrote that the Defense Security Service (DISCO) has slowed its processing and adjudication of security clearances. While my clearance is fortunately current for another few years and so I am not writing this for personal reasons, someone who knows the issue in wrote in, and I excerpt his email with permission:

The major problem with DISCO today is it works on a fee-for-service basis; i.e. it performs clearances for other government agencies and government contractors and bills them for the service. However, while contractors usually pay promptly, the agencies for which it performs the service are usually lax about paying the invoice presented by DISCO. DISCO’s annual budget basically covers its administrative costs and a handful of routine clearances. After that, it’s entirely dependent on the fees paid by the agencies for which it processes clearances. Once DISCO runs out of money, it must stop processing clearances until more money comes in, because the Non-Deficiency Act prohibits Federal agencies from performing work or delivering products for which it lacks funding. I was also surprised to discover that DISCO no longer has its own field investigators working routine clearances. My interviewer was a subcontractor from the Office of Personnel Management, who seemed not to have a clue regarding the kind of work I did or the necessity of meeting with foreign government, military and business representatives.

Again, I repeat: When we are at war, the inability of the federal government to streamline and speed up the clearance process necessary to win that war is inexcusable.


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