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Personnel Security Clearances: Actions Needed to Help Ensure Correct Designations of National Security Positions


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Personnel security clearances allow individuals access to classified information that, through unauthorized disclosure, can in some cases cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. A sound requirements process to determine whether a national security position requires access to classified information is needed to safeguard classified data and manage costs. The DNI reported that more than 4.9 million federal government and contractor employees held or were eligible to hold a security clearance in 2012. GAO has reported that the federal government spent over $1 billion to conduct background investigations (in support of security clearances and suitability determinations--the consideration of character and conduct for federal employment) in fiscal year 2011. This testimony addresses policies and procedures executive branch agencies use when (1) first determining whether federal civilian positions require a security clearance and (2) periodically reviewing and revising or validating existing federal civilian position security clearance requirements. This testimony is based on a July 2012 GAO report (GAO-12-800), in which GAO (1) reviewed relevant federal guidance and processes, (2) examined agency personnel security clearance policies, (3) obtained and analyzed an OPM tool used for position designation, and (4) met with officials from ODNI and OPM because of their Directors' assigned roles as Security and Suitability Executive Agents. Because DOD and DHS grant the most security clearances, that report focused on the security clearance requirements of federal civilian positions within those agencies.



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