Navy Surges Resources as Massive Security Clearance Backlog Turns Critical

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With nearly 120,000 sailors, Marines and civilian workers awaiting background investigations, the Department of the Navy is taking steps to significantly speed up a backlog leaders say is harming mission readiness.

The Navy will identify new hubs at installations with high concentrations of sailors, Marines and civilian employees awaiting background investigations, according to a service-wide administrative message. The department will also create "surges" of employees in geographic areas where investigators can conduct subject interviews.

The tens of thousands of overdue or pending investigations degrade "Navy readiness and compromises mission accomplishment," officials said in the message.

The Pentagon was tapped to take over background investigations for the entire federal government after a Navy contractor with mental health issues was able to obtain a security clearance, exposing serious flaws with the existing system. In 2013, the contractor shot a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard.

The Navy and Marine Corps' backlog is just a fraction of Defense Department's more than 700,000 overdue or pending investigations. The Navy Department created a special branch earlier this year to tackle the backlog.

So far, a hub has been opened in Tidewater, Virginia, and a second is slated to open in San Diego. "Surges" have been completed at five locations: two in Maryland, one in Connecticut, one in Washington state and one in Florida.

"To date, surges have proven very successful in reducing the number of backlogged investigations in these areas," the message states.

Commanders will be notified if their installation is selected as a hub or surge site, officials said. If selected, base leaders must identify space where the branch employees can conduct their work. They might also need to help schedule their troops' background interviews and investigations.

"The current Navy background investigation backlog is now a critical Navy readiness issue," the message states.

"Through efficient hub and surge operations, the Navy ... can reduce the backlog of investigations to a reasonable level in a timely manner."

--Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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