Senate members grilled OPM Director Beth Colbert this week about concerns regarding the transition of background investigation responsibilities from OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) to the new National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB). Among the concerns outlined in the letter of inquiry to OPM was the fear that the NBIB is simply a coat of paint designed to cover up the cracks left by the FIS and that no real reforms were in the works. Pointed out was the fact that FIS had a backlog of over 8,000 cases at the end of FY 2015, more than double from the previous fiscal year. Also disconcerting was the number of security clearance reinvestigations that were overdue.
A memo released by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper paves the way for social media checks to be used in the security clearance background investigation process.
Any information searched must be related to the 13 adjudicative criteria, and must be information that is publicly available. A background investigator will not be asking for your log-in credentials, but you should expect your name to be searched on popular search engines and social media sites once the policy is implemented.
Effective May 12, 2016 security clearance background investigations may include the collection and review of publicly available media information in determining eligibility for access to classified information. The long awaited policy release, Security Executive Agent Direction 5, gives the Federal government authority to implement these checks, however, it leaves it up to agency heads to determine whether or not they want to include social media checks in background investigations on their employees.
The FY 2016 1st Quarter report on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform generated by ODNI shows that the timelines for several initiatives were not met. The Performance Accountability Council (PAC) is responsible for oversight and implementation of the proposed reforms and is the lead in unifying and standardizing the Federal Government’s efforts. Some of the initiatives currently in progress are: developing insider threat programs; updating continuous evaluation processes; coordination with Federal, State, and Tribal entities in sharing information; quality control and oversight of investigations and adjudications; and improving risk management tools regarding position designation and investigations. Here are some of the areas where ODNI milestones were missed: