Background Investigations

NBIB Hiring More Background Investigators to Help Clear Up Backlog

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) conducts approximately 95% of the background investigations for the Federal Government, and also handles portions of investigations (e.g., NACs, FBI fingerprint checks) for agencies that run their own investigations.  In 2016 the NBIB had a total investigator workforce of 5,843 (federal and contractor investigators) and have since increased it to 7,697. In a recent presentation to security professionals, NBIB indicated that by October of this year they plan to top out and have 8,500 investigators on the street chipping away at the 700,000 plus investigation backlog. Keep in mind, this backlog is not just security clearance investigations, but includes all tiered investigations needed for eligibility for badged access to government assets, suitability for appointment to a federal position, or fitness eligibility to work on behalf of the government on a Federal contract.

With the three year phased transition plan for the DoD portion of the workload to move over to the Defense Security Service (DSS) starting in FY 2019, NBIB projects the number of investigations (including periodic reinvestigations) they will be responsible for will drop from 2.4 million to 1.2 million per year. DSS will initially take over all DoD NACs and T3R investigations in the first phase. One can only assume, based on the increased number of investigators and the lighter workload, that timelines for closing investigations will be substantially shorter. Of course this will not happen overnight, but if all goes as planned then security clearance applicants can finally breathe a sigh of relief and have hope their background investigation will be done in a reasonable period of time.

Discussion

  1. I don’t see how the Phase 1 shift of work to DSS can contribute to less work and better timeliness. The work specified in Phase 1 generally do not require investigator fieldwork or involvement. I don’t expect to see any significant improvement in the case times until the Tier 4 and 5’s migrate over to DSS and even then, the competition for investigators will be a determent to case processing.

  2. Any meaningful increase in investigators will come from the Investigative Services Providers or ISPs of OPM: CACI, KeyPoint, General Dynamics (bought CSRA) and Securitas. NBIB can only add marginal numbers. When you take the increased NBIB investigative number and spread that number out across all of the OPM field offices (future DSS field offices), what’s that, an additional 1 or 2 investigators per field office? That will hardly make a dent in the investigative & adjudicative backlogs. The federal PSI program has many, many serious problems going forward.

  3. If that actually added one or two investigators to each field off, you’re right, this will do little. But, the backlog is not spread evenly across all of the field offices. The smaller office away from the cities are getting along pretty well but the DC, NVA type offices are way behind. Adding several new investigators to each of these offices will make a difference.

  4. DMV area isn’t actually too bad per Director Phalen. They’re about where they need to be.

    I’d also like to add that field offices shouldn’t be talked about in the traditional sense. All FI’s are remote and don’t generally report to a physical field office, so any conversation regarding the physical field offices (as I’ve seen in some open hearings) aren’t really relevant to operational capabilities.