Today the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) published a 60-day ICR reinstatement notice in the Federal Register (77 FR 21989) for their Critical Infrastructure Private Sector [Security] Clearance Program (PSCP). OMB approval of this ICR would allow NPPD to collect information necessary to initiate the security clearance investigation process for selected critical infrastructure civilian personnel who would not otherwise be eligible for a clearance under Executive Order 12829.
There is something odd going on with this ICR and it doesn’t look like the problem is in DHS. The original ICR was submitted in July 2008 and approved in November of that year. It was set to expire on November 30th, 2011. DHS submitted a request to re-approve the ICR in July of last year with a change in the number of potentially covered individuals from 250 to 450 with an equivalent change in the time burden (42 to 75). That was approved ‘without change’ by OMB on September 14th, 2011 with an expiration of November 30th, 2011; the same date upon which it was already set to expire.
Apparently no one at DHS noted the error in the OMB approval; they expected the normal three year ICR expiration which would have put it either in September or November of 2014. The ICR approval paperwork was probably put in an action item folder dated for some time in the early summer of 2014 and promptly forgotten.
Somehow someone noted that the ICR had expired prematurely. It would be nice to think that a simple phone call to the action officer at OMB would have cleared up the matter, but that is not the way that a bloated bureaucracy operates. Alternatively we could have expected to see NPPD submit an expedited or ‘emergency’ ICR approval request to get the program on a technically firm footing, but that probably would have required publicly pointing out OMB’s error and that doesn’t win much in the way of friendly bureaucratic cooperation. OMB already sits on NPPD requests for lengthy periods of time, no sense in antagonizing them.
It really doesn’t make much difference in any case. This is a voluntary program and people requesting security clearances under this program are certainly not going to object to providing this information on a form without an up-to-date OMB approval number in the corner. While the public can’t be required to provide the information on an unapproved collection, neither can NPPD be required to process a security clearance request.
Comments on this ICR are being solicited by NPPD. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.regulations.gov; Docket # DHS-2012-0001). Comments should be submitted by June 11, 2012.