Security Clearance Process

NBIB Director Outlines Major Focuses for Background Investigations

In a recent interview with Security Management (ASIS Online), Charlie Phalen, Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, outlined the challenges NBIB inherited from OPM’s Federal Investigative Services and what the focus is going forward. Phalen stated “there were two big main focuses. One is, there is this backlog of background investigations that everybody refers to—it’s significant. That number is interesting, but it’s not the real number. The real number is how long does it take us to turn out an investigation? If we had a backlog of 5 billion cases, nobody would care as long as we were turning out the investigations on a timely basis. We aren’t, so we have an immediate problem to deal with which is to reduce the time it takes to get somebody a national security clearance.”

The other focus he touched on was leveraging IT technology capabilities to replace legacy systems in order to help in vetting individuals during the initial investigation, as well as tracking relevant information for continuous evaluation to ensure the trust relationship between the individual and the government is maintained. One solution that is currently in the works is the Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE), whose mission is to find new data sources that can appropriately be used as part of the investigative process.

Another subject Phalen touched on was ensuring the current administration provided the funding needed to implement all the changes and resources to address the backlog and upgrade IT systems. The current metering process by DoD due to funding issues has been a source of frustration for clearance applicants. Investigations are getting submitted to OPM 3 months after the applicant certifies the e-QIP SF-86, which just adds to the length of time it takes to get through the entire process.