Defense Has Big Security Clearance Problems, GAO Reports

Even Non-Existent People Can See Secret Information

Top Secret
GAO Finds DOD Has Security Clearance Problems. Getty Images

The combined agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) have over 1 million contractors who are listed as eligible for government security clearance, but are not on payroll, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In fact, the GAO’s report shows that some DOD components have more people eligible for security clearance than their total number of employees.

Their findings “suggests that DOD’s clearance eligibility totals may be inaccurate,” said the GAO.

 “Specifically, GAO found that the number of eligible employees exceeded the total number of employees in five DOD components.”

And that inaccurate data, said the GAO, “hampers DOD’s ability to reduce its number of clearance holders to minimize risk and reduce costs to the government.”

The DOD’s worst security clearance problems were in the Marine Corps.

According to the GAO. The Marine’s reported having 355,030 active-duty personnel eligible to access to classified information in fiscal year 2013. However, the Corps only had a total of 229,537 active duty personnel in 2013. In other words, about 155% of the Marine Corps’ active duty personnel were somehow eligible for security clearance.

In the Navy, 125% of the civilian workforce was eligible to access secret information, as were 120% of the Army’s civilian employees.

How is this possible? How can so many apparently non-existent people have something?

“DOD officials said this discrepancy could be because DOD’s eligibility database is not consistently updated when an employee separates,” reported the GAO.

In 2014, the GAO told Congress that throughout the federal government, obtaining security clearance to handle top-secret information was just too easy.

Executive branch agency efforts to improve the personnel security process have emphasized timeliness but not quality,” stated the GAO at the time.

And then there was the GAO report of 2012 revealing that about 8,400 government officials, employees and contractors who have security clearance to access sensitive systems and information owed approximately $85 million in unpaid federal taxes