Background check bottleneck hurting DHS

A new report from the Government Accountability Office has found that the time-consuming hiring process for positions in the U.S. Homeland Security Department is flooding the system and having a negative impact. According to the standards put in place by the Office of Personnel Management in 2009, agencies should take no more than 80 days to make a new hire. However, some agencies have pushed back and told auditors from the GAO that adhering to the 80-day limit may not be possible. 

Average hiring time for U.S. government agencies
Fierce Homeland Security reported that the average time it takes for the officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to hire services officers in the fourth quarter of 2012 was 117 days. The Transportation Security Authority told a similar story, with an average time of 104 days before filling a position. 

Many of the officials interviewed for the GAO report claimed that the background check and interview processes necessary for filling these positions make it take longer, sometimes much longer, than 80 days to make a sound hiring decision. In fact, "USCIS officials told auditors the wait doesn't appear to drive candidates away, 'adding that they rarely make job offers that are not accepted.'" 

Unfortunately, many of the positions that are taking a considerable time to fill are ones that are particularly vital, which means that not only are they critically needed to be filled for an agency's operational efficiency, but often also require lengthy training.

"The process of recruiting and hiring involves developing and implementing strategies to advertise positions and attract top candidates as well as assessing applicants' relative competencies or knowledge, skills, and abilities against job-related criteria to identify the most qualified candidates to potentially hire. This includes identifying mission-critical occupations, which are those occupations that most directly affect an agency's ability to perform its mission, and determining the specific skills and competencies required to meet both current and future programmatic needs. At DHS, MCOs constitute a large proportion of the workforce, highlighting the importance of an effective DHS recruiting and hiring strategy to ensure these critical occupations are filled."

Interoperable clearance determinations
While Federal rules were passed to allow interoperable security clearance between security organizations at Federal agencies, research laboratories and sites with high-security requirements, few, if any, of the agencies follow it. Interoperable clearance supports secure access clearance for individuals on a standards-based system – allowing the justice and security community to work together and combine resources. Users can access multiple services using a combine set of standardized security credentials – reducing the backlog process that is negatively impacting hiring and readying someone for a new position. Under interoperable identity and security management, information sharing is facilitated for the greater good and improved operational efficiency. By honoring DoD security clearances, the DHS will solve much of its hiring and training backlog with improved efficiency. 

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