Accession Number:



Personnel Security Clearances: Opportunities Exist to Improve Quality Throughout the Process

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Congressional Testimony]

Corporate Author:

United States Government Accountability Office

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



In 2012, the DNI reported that more than 4.9 million federal government and contractor employees held or were eligible to hold a personnel security clearance. Furthermore, GAO has reported that the federal government spent over 1 billion to conduct more than 2 million background investigations in fiscal year 2011. A high quality process is essential to minimize the risks of unauthorized disclosures of classified information and to help ensure that information about individuals with criminal activity or other questionable behavior is identified and assessed as part of the process for granting or retaining clearances. Security clearances may allow personnel to gain access to classified information that, through unauthorized disclosure, can in some cases cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. Recent events, such as unauthorized disclosures of classified information, have illustrated the need for additional work to help ensure the process functions effectively and efficiently. This testimony addresses the 1 roles and responsibilities of different executive branch agencies involved in the personnel security process 2 different phases of the process and 3 extent that agencies assess the quality of the process. This testimony is based on GAO work issued between 2008 and 2013 on DODs personnel security clearance program and governmentwide suitability and security clearance reform efforts. As part of that work, GAO 1 reviewed statutes, executive orders, guidance, and processes 2 examined agency data on timeliness and quality 3 assessed reform efforts and 4 reviewed samples of case files for DOD personnel.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]