Sen. Warner responds to GAO placing security clearances on high priority list

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, responded to today’s announcement by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that it intends to add the Governmentwide Personnel Security Clearance Process to GAO’s High-Risk List of federal areas in need of either broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

“GAO’s announcement that the security clearance process has returned to its high priority list reaffirms what we all have known for the last several years: our current clearance system is broken, as two recent studies I requested of GAO have confirmed. The current process to grant clearances to government personnel and contractors, born 70 years ago, takes too long, costs too much, and is too complex. It is a disservice to the people who support critical national security functions, and it is a disservice to the American people,” said Sen. Warner. “We can and should reform the clearance process by making use of new technologies and information sources. I look forward to GAO’s sustained attention to help usher the clearance system into the 21st century, and ensure we can recruit and hire an expert, trusted workforce.”

GAO added the government-wide personnel security clearance process to the High-Risk List due, in part, to challenges identified in two recent reports on the personnel security clearance process (GAO-18-117 and GAO-18-29) requested by Sen. Warner. Currently, executive branch agencies are unable to investigate and process personnel security clearances in a timely manner, contributing to a significant backlog of background investigations, totaling more than 700,000 cases as of September 2017, according to the GAO.

Also today, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, requesting that the Administration include in the FY 2019 budget request adequate funding for departments’ and agencies’ background investigations for purposes of suitability assessments and security clearances.

“I request that the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 ensures adequate funding for departments’ and agencies’ background investigations for purposes of suitability assessments and security clearances. I also request you treat personnel security as a special topic in the budget request. It is essential that background investigations are treated as a critical mission function that receives attention from our government’s top leadership,” wrote Sen. Warner in the letter. “Since 2014, agencies have seen lengthy delays in background investigations, a situation which now poses a national security personnel crisis.” A copy of the letter is available here.