Some Officers Are Still Tracking Security Clearance Holders the Old-Fashioned Way: With Paper
ClearanceJobs raises concerns that not all facilities have electronic systems.
A new report raises concerns about the use of a paper-based system to track holders of government security clearances.
ClearanceJobs, the largest career network for security-cleared professionals, published on Monday its second report on the state of facility security officers, who keep track of cleared facilities and personnel at government contractors. Among the approximately 141 security officers surveyed, 2% said that they were using a paper-based system to keep track of security cleared personnel, which was highlighted as a top concern. Millions of government employees and contractors hold security clearances and in recent years the government has been moving towards a continuous vetting system as opposed to periodic reinvestigations.
“If one person, literally if I was talking to one person on the street and I said, ‘Hey how are you keeping track of cleared professionals?’ and they said a filing cabinet, a paper filing cabinet, I would probably consider that one too many,” said Lindy Kyzer, director of content at ClearanceJobs. “There [are] not necessarily requirements saying, ‘hey you have to use an electronic tracking system to keep track of your cleared personnel,’ but I just do have serious concerns.”
Following The Wall Street Journal’s report last month that about 250 Boeing employees were working on current and future Air Force One plans without the required security credentials, “it’s a clear reminder that keeping track of personnel security records is a vital aspect of any security office,” said the report. “When failure to keep clearances up-to-date could end in contract loss or criminal prosecution, relying on a paper system isn’t just a security risk, it’s a business risk, as well.”
The other responses for how security officers were tracking information on cleared personnel were: third party security information system (26%); Excel (20%); spreadsheets (8%); company-created database/human resources database (6%); the Defense Information System for Security (5%); N/A (4%); and other (29%).
“Behind every cleared program is a security officer that keeps track of that data and employees and they have a really important function,” Kyzer said. “We don’t want to wait until there’s a breach until we realize that they have a really important function.”
The survey was sent out to about 1,100 facility security officers in March. Kyzer said they are pretty confident this is representative of the overall community as this is a fairly small group.
Other findings in the ClearanceJobs report are: the biggest hassle for security officers in the security clearance process was slow clearance processing times (26%, a 4% decrease from 2022) and controlled unclassified information creates the most headaches for them (26%, a 5% decrease from 2022).
Controlled unclassified information is information the government creates or possesses that requires safeguarding or controls on dissemination. The program was established by an executive order President Obama issued in 2010. The fiscal 2023 omnibus enacted in late December ordered the Pentagon to review whether government officials are overusing the label, which has garnered bipartisan pushback.