The Defence Department doesn't expect the government will have to strip away its work vetting staff for intelligence agencies, saying it will cut a backlog of top-level clearances by next year.
After a logjam of vetting work heaped more staffing pressure on several agencies,an independent intelligence report released on Tuesday said Defence's Australian Government Security Vetting Agency should have until 2018 to shape up or have the task sent elsewhere.
But AGSVA has piled more vetting officers, psychologists and contractors onto the task and says it expects to solve the problem by July next year.
The intelligence report found at the peak of the delay AGSVA took as long as 18 months to process 'positive vetting' security clearances letting public servants access top secret information - much longer than agencies conducting their own vetting.
Delays heightened pressure on the Defence and Immigration departments, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and other intelligence agencies receiving clearances from AGSVA.
Defence said on Thursday its efforts to solve the problem had increased clearances, which were 62 per cent higher in 2016-17 than the previous year.
"AGSVA will continue to grow its capacity to meet future government demand for PV clearances," it said.
The independent review, which recommended changes to the structure and legislation governing Australia's intelligence work, proposed more funding for ASIO to step in and reduce the waiting list.
"We consider that it would be prudent to increase ASIO's involvement in the clearance process, and at an earlier stage than the existing security check it undertakes," it said.
If AGSVA's "positive vetting" wait times still exceeded six months by early 2018 the government should consider handing the task to individual intelligence agencies, the review said.
This could see ASIO giving clearances for staff of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, Immigration, ACIC and AUSTRAC.
AGSVA was established in late 2010 to hand security clearances to public servants more efficiently, instead of each agency doing its own, but a 2015 national audit report found savings had not materialised.
Main public service union the CPSU said while IT had hampered security vetting in the past, inadequate resourcing for AGSVA was to blame for the latest frustration.