GAO: Security Clearances Contribute to IT Security High-Risk Issue

Government-wide security clearance processes, and the half million-plus backlog in the clearance applications pipeline, made the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High-Risk report last week as a contributing factor to the larger problem of ensuring IT security, generally.

The National Background Investigations System (NBIS) is being developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) in part to make the background investigation process more efficient, but Office of Personnel Management legacy IT systems could delay progress of the system, and impact cybersecurity.

“Federal agencies and other entities need to take urgent actions to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, perform effective oversight, secure Federal systems, and protect cyber critical infrastructure, privacy, and sensitive data,” the report says.

A hefty backlog of security clearances to be processed has plagued the Federal government for some time. The NBIS increased its Federal workforce to 8,700 employees to help meet the challenge, but hasn’t reported goals for completing a workforce plan that was previously recommended by the GAO.

To meet these reporting and workforce standards, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) and DoD officials are looking to implement Trusted Workforce 2.0, which is an initiative to transform the approach to workforce vetting, support policies to overhaul business processes, and modernize the IT architecture after the security clearance backlog is reduced to a manageable level.

The clearance application backlog has affected the ability to ensure IT security, according to the report, and as of Feb. 2019, the backlog of security clearance applications was 565,000.

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