Most Read: National

Live Discussions

Grammar Geekery

Grammar Geekery

Chat transcript

Copy editor Bill Walsh addressed your grammar gripes, spelling squabbles, and questions about the nuts and bolts of good writing.

Weekly schedule, past shows

Checkpoint Washington
Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 09/20/2011

How many security clearances have been issued? Nearly enough for everyone in the Washington area

More than 4.2 million people have security clearances for access to classified information, a number that vastly outstrips previous estimates and nearly rivals the population of metropolitan Washington.

The number was disclosed in a new report that was mandated by Congress and marks the first time that the government has produced a detailed accounting of the clearances issued to federal, military and contract employees.
(Michael Williamson for The Washington Post)

The official count is so much greater than previous estimates that it caught security experts off-guard. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said the new total is an “astonishingly large figure” and “another reminder of how quickly the national security bureaucracy has expanded over the past decade.”

Aftergood noted in his blog that just two years ago the Government Accountability Office estimated that about 2.4 million people held clearances. The Washington region’s overall population is just under 5.5 million.

The vast majority of clearance holders are federal employees or members of the U.S. armed services. But more than a million contractors also have access to classified information. Remarkably, nearly as many contractors hold top secret clearances (524,990) as do federal workers (666,008).

The report, which was mandated by last year’s intelligence authorization act, also examines how long it takes for various agencies to conduct background investigations and grant clearances. The National Security Agency appears to be particularly slow, with 192 cases that are more than a year old. At least one application has been under review for nearly three years.

By  |  12:50 PM ET, 09/20/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company