More Than 2.4 Million Hold Security Clearances

Some 2.4 million persons currently hold security clearances for authorized access to classified information, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report (pdf) to the House Intelligence Committee, citing an estimate from the security clearance Joint Reform Team.  This figure does not include “some of those with clearances who work in areas of national intelligence,” the GAO noted (at p.1).

An accurate tally of the number of cleared government employees and contractors — as opposed to a round-number estimate — is not currently available anywhere in government.  The House version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization act (sec. 366) would require an annual report that indicates the number of individuals with security clearances.

In 1993, an estimated 3.2 million persons held security clearances, according to a 1995 GAO report (cited by the Moynihan Commission, chapter 4).

No Responses to “More Than 2.4 Million Hold Security Clearances”

  1. Leo Lovelace July 29, 2009 at 2:36 PM #

    These data -even if incomplete- are very relevant in terms of the political sociology analysis of the American system. While they can be assessed in a non-contextual functional perspective, they should also be examined in a contextual, power-structure dimension, most likely worth sharing with and brought up to for debate by our students, certainly in political science -American politics especially-, sociology, political history.

    When considered from the perspective of the power structure of the American political system, I would propose three specific control variables for analysis:

    ONE The extent to which the ‘national security establishment’ has evolved in the U.S. to become the equivalent of the Soviet nomenklatura -perhaps even in ideological terms-*
    TWO The correlation between membership in the ‘national security establishment’ -i.e., through the ‘clearance’ indicator- and membership in the economic and social contexts of power.
    THREE The political and ideological configuration of the ‘establishment’ and the recruitment regime mechanisms, and thus the ‘openness’ of the ‘establishment’***

    * There is substantial agreement with the concept of the Soviet nomenklatura as “a small, elite subset of the general population in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries’ activity, analogous to a system ruling class”. In the case of the Soviet Bloc nomenklatura, it was composed without exception of communist party members, though membership in the party did not guarantee at all nomenklatura status. In the U.S. case, the equivalent ‘national security establishment’ is ‘bipartisan’ and may have also ‘independents’, though it’d be interesting to have reliable data on party composition of the ‘establishment’. Obviously W. Mills’ study of the ‘power elite’ is a pioneer insight into the matter, though Mills does not address the specific centrality of the ‘security establishment’, as a cross-dimensional social/political variable.

    *** A well-established variable in political sociology terms: the relationship between the configurative dimensions of the ruling elite and the mass public -the ‘people’; there is also considerable agreement on a) the relevance of this relationship for purposes of ‘system stability’, and b) that the growing gap between them holds strong explanatory variables re the collapse of the Soviet system.

    **** Thank you, Steve, for the constant excellent work of the Project.