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The Air Force has resumed periodic reinvestigations for airmen and civilians who hold Top Secret security clearances, but now it has to deal with a backlog of about 6,000 investigations, an Air Force official with purview over security clearances said.
The required investigations were suspended between Feb. 13 and July 31 due to budget cuts, said Cris Marchiori, former director of the Air Force Central Adjudication Facility, which is the final stop for periodic reinvestigations.
“There’s three steps: You have the guys that initiate the clearance out in the field; you have OPM [Office of Personnel and Management] that investigates and then the AFCAF [Air Force Central Adjudication Facility] would adjudicate them,” Marchiori said.
Congress recently allowed the Defense Department to move money around to cover essential expenses. The Air Force was able to restore about $20 million to fund the investigations, according to the Air Force, which expects 23,000 airmen and civilians who hold Top Secret clearances to need renewal investigations this fiscal year.
To reduce the backlog, the Air Force is looking into requiring fewer airmen to hold Top Secret clearances, thus negating the need for them to go through a periodic reinvestigation, Marchiori said.
“There were some Air Force Specialty Codes that were mandatory to be Top Secret coded; we’re now going back and saying, not everyone needs to hold a Top Secret clearance,” he said.
Marchiori could not say which AFSCs would no longer require a Top Secret security clearance because the Air Force is still working on the issue.
Despite the backlog, Marchiori does not expect a delay in the time it takes to complete the investigations. The Office of Personnel and Management expects the average time for each reinvestigation will remain 163 days.
“We are going to prioritize those investigations as ‘oldest in, first out,’ ” Marchiori said. “The ones that were suspended on Feb. 14 that were non-priority will probably be the first ones to be submitted.”
A spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel and Management was not able to answer questions by deadline about how it expects to avoid delays while dealing with a sudden influx of about 6,000 periodic reinvestigations.