Jason Miller, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said today that OMB is due to issue additional policy soon aimed at speeding up the Federal government’s work in processing security clearances.

Speaking at an event organized by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), Miller discussed the Federal government’s progress to date in implementing the existing Trusted Workforce 2.0 framework that aims to reform personnel vetting processes, reduce backlogs of government investigations, develop a policy framework for a new approach to personnel vetting, and develop much-needed IT systems for that task.

Federal officials said last year that the government’s security clearance backlog had fallen to about 200,000 – from a peak of 725,000 in 2018 – and was approaching a manageable “steady-state” volume of work.

“Yes, there is progress being made,” Miller said at today’s INSA event while adding that the government has “still a ways to go” to improve the onboarding of employees who need clearances.

The ongoing work to implement Trusted Workforce 2.0 “requires a delicate, choreographed dance across many agencies,” he said. The process, he said, “is complex … it’s soup-to-nuts reform.” But, he said, its goals fall squarely in line with OMB’s “most important priority” which is to attract the right talent to the government.

Miller said he expects further related policy developments from OMB in “days, not weeks,” and he emphasized the importance of the effort on OMB’s to-do list.

“I am committed to this,” he said. “This is the year we have to drive it forward.” He added, “together [with industry], we have to deliver.”

IT’s Vital Role

Both Miller and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who also spoke at the INSA event, emphasized the vital role of IT improvements in making the security clearance process run more efficiently.

Miller said the current process involves multiple IT systems spread among numerous agencies, and that the process continues to be paper-based to some extent.  The re-engineering of IT processes, he said, needs to take advantage of AI and machine-learning technologies. Improving the process, he emphasized, “relies on a having a system that works.”

Sen. Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted the substantial improvements made in recent years to cut the government’s backlog of security clearances and said further improvements depend in large part on employing the right IT systems to enable that improvement.

“We’ve got to make sure we really build out the IT backbone” to enable the Trusted Workforce 2.0 reform, he said.

On the legislative front, Sen. Warner said that additional steps may be needed to create and enforce security clearance reciprocity among Federal agencies, saying “we’ve got a long way to go on reciprocity.” The senator also said he needs “some more allies” in Congress to work with him on security clearance legislative efforts.

The overall goal, he said, is to make the process of conducting security clearances “as easy and seamless as possible…if we are to recruit and train the best and the brightest.”

Off-topic from the security clearance process, Sen. Warner offered praise to the U.S. intelligence community for its work in providing information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Speaking to the accuracy of intelligence, Sen. Warner said he has “never seen it more spot-on,” and also praised the Biden administration for its decision to share substantial intelligence with the public.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.