- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2018

Washington’s leading federal government trade groups, whose members fill some of America’s most sensitive jobs, are urging congressional leaders to cooperate on competing proposals aimed at speeding up the nation’s dismally backlogged security clearance process.

“While there is no one action that will immediately reduce the backlog while maintaining the integrity of the process there are concrete actions that Congress can take that will begin to address deficiencies and risks,” a group of associations wrote to lawmakers on Monday.

Earlier this month the Senate and House intelligence committees passed their annual Intelligence authorization bills which both contained proposals to overhaul the security clearance and background check process that critics have called a symbol of bureaucratic incompetence. Lawmakers on the Senate and House armed services committees are now negotiating compromises to the rival proposals.

In the past five years, the federal government has attempted to overhaul the background check system since it was revealed that the last firm in charge, Virginia-based USIS, had failed to complete some 665,000 investigations.

Many jobs at government agencies or private business contracting with the government require a clearance, but because of the backlog, the wait times between getting a job and being cleared to work can run at least a year.

In January, the Government Accountability Office went so far as to place the security clearance process on its “high risk” list of areas requiring immediate broad-based reform, noting that the backlog for investigating job candidates had more than tripled in four years to 710,000.

On Monday, the trade groups announced their letter was sent to Senate Armed Services committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, and the committee’s lead Democrat, Jack Reed of Rhode Island; and to House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican and that panel’s lead Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington.

The letter, released Monday but dated July 12, was signed by the Aerospace Industries Association, Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Industrial Security Working Group, National Defense Industrial Association, Northern Virginia Technology Council and Professional Services Council (PSG), which represents more than 400 tech companies.

“The backlog of nearly 750,000 cases in process and the unacceptably long wait times for a security clearance are pressing matters for industry, but more importantly, they undermine the national security missions our members support,” the groups wrote.

They urged the Senate and House reform proposals to be blended to expedite clearances for mission critical positions, improve information sharing at positions “of trust” among certain agencies — in addition to allowing some positions to maintain clearances for longer periods.

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