Mark J. Terrill/AP file photo

Want to cut security clearance costs? Recognize other agencies’ credentials

Granting reciprocity would save millions, survey finds.

The failure of federal agencies to recognize one another’s clearances is costing taxpayers millions of dollars, according to a government technology trade group.

TechAmerica, an organization representing technology contractors, said agencies are creating inefficiencies by disregarding a requirement for reciprocity in the 2004 intelligence reform law. In a survey of its member firms, the organization found that 96 percent of companies had trouble transferring employees with security clearances among contracts. The Homeland Security Department was one of the worst offenders, the survey indicated. Non-Defense intelligence agencies also ranked poorly on reciprocity; the Defense Department fared better.

“While the survey did identify some areas of improvement, the results were stark and clear,” wrote Greg Keeley, vice president of defense, intelligence and homeland security policy at TechAmerica. “Federal agencies are not adhering to existing clearance reciprocity laws, resulting in massive inefficiencies in time, effort and money.”

One area with more positive news was processing speed. Fifty-two percent of respondents to the survey said processing times for obtaining clearances improved, with 22 percent saying times had stayed approximately the same and 26 percent reporting longer processing periods.   

A GAO report released in June said the federal government has made progress on security clearance processing and management, including reciprocity. But U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro noted in congressional testimony that more work lies ahead for federal agencies looking to give security clearances.

“Emphasis on quality in clearance processes should promote positive outcomes, including more reciprocity among agencies in accepting each other’s clearances,” Dodaro said.

As Federal Computer Week noted, the survey follows House passage of a bill in May that would force the president to create a strategy and guidance for security clearance reciprocity.

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