Number of clearance holders exceeds population of L.A.


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.


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  1. What rubbish. “Coveted access”? This reporter makes it sound as if a clearance is a perk and not a requirement for one’s continued employment.

    Declining intelligence budgets don’t necessarily lead to lesser amounts of classified information. Major weapon system programs almost all have classified data/information and with the push to hire more acquisition personnel, all of whom will require some sort of clearance, it should not be surprising that the number of cleared personnel has not dropped.

  2. It’s also important to point out that a Secret Clearance is a joke to get. If you graduate from basic training in the military and don’t have any crazy issues in your history you get a Secret Clearance pretty much as a rubber stamp action. Getting a Top Secret Clearance is a bit tougher but again mainly comes down to not having a crazy or criminal history.

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