Nearly 640,000 fewer people held security clearances at the end of fiscal 2014 than they did a year earlier, according to a new report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
That’s a 12-percent drop in the number of federal employees, contractors and others with access to confidential information.
The statistic alone is significant. The government has been widely criticized for failing to keep tabs on the millions of people who hold security clearances. The cries grew loudest after former analyst Edward Snowden stole classified information from the National Security Agency and former contract employee Aaron Alexis shot and killed a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard, both in 2013.
Since then, the Obama administration has ordered agencies to pare back their lists of cleared employees and contractors to those who need access to classified data in order to do their jobs. It has also instructed agencies to develop insider-threat programs to detect clearance holders with the potential to do harm.
The data reflects the impact of those orders in the post-Snowden era, said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com.
“The defense department is taking the insider threat very seriously, and lawmakers are equally concerned about who has security clearance,” he said. The Defense Department oversees the vast majority of security-clearance holders.