Back in January of this year OPM announced that it was standing up of a new agency, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), which would take over conducting background investigations from OPM’s Federal Investigative Services by October 2016 as a part of security clearance processing reforms. On August 23, 2016 Senators Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill wrote a letter to OPM Director Beth Cobert expressing serious concerns about current national security background investigation backlogs and OPM’s ability to meet its own self-imposed milestones in standing up the NBIB.
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.
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:
Late last Fall the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) implemented the first 2 tiers of the new 5-tier background investigation process that was approved through collaboration between OPM and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Although OPM did not send out an official notice to the field that they were implementing Tiers 3 and 3R (reinvestigation) effective in FY 2016, they have now been incorporated into the new billing standards (Federal Investigations Notice No. 16-01 issued on October 2, 2015). OPM still has not revealed when it will implement Tiers 4 and 5. Below are what the new tiers look like: