Put all government security clearance holders together and you’d have the second-largest city in the United States, according to the latest annual numbers from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
As of October, the number of federal employees and contractors allowed coveted access to secret information totaled almost 4.92 million, an increase of about 1 percent over the preceding year. Of that total, about 3.5 million were feds, augmented by almost 1.1 million contract employees, the ODNI report said. There were also about 300,000 cleared individuals who fell in the category of “other,” meaning that records didn’t make clear whether they were government or contract workers.
The continued growth in the number of clearance-holders is “surprising,” given that the intelligence community’s budget has been on the decline, said Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
“The size of the clearance system seems to lag behind drops in the budget,” Aftergood said.
This is the third year for which ODNI has produced the congressionally required report, which–when first published in 2011–showed that the number of cleared individuals was far higher than earlier estimates. As Aftergood noted on his blog, the agency unsuccessfully asked lawmakers to drop the requirement last year.
And, for the record, New York City is the nation’s largest city, with a population of more than 8.2 million, according to a 2011 estimate. Los Angeles is runner-up, with about 3.8 million people.