OPM Grilled About 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.
OPM has not released much information about the NBIB since March after naming the senior leadership. Between trying to clear the current backlog while processing new cases, transitioning to the new five tier investigation system, implementing social media checks options, and trying to stand up a new investigative service, OPM seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. Rumblings from field investigators are deafening, with complaints and stress levels going through the roof. Many have moved on to other jobs or at very least actively looking. Clearance applicants are stuck in limbo because investigations are either stalled due to the backlogs or waiting on one or two items (DCII or FBIN) to get done. Even then, they have to hope that the adjudicator that gets assigned to the case doesn’t have a huge backlog, not to mention having to answer an SOR if there are unresolved issues. This in turn leads to companies and agencies getting frustrated because they can’t get their employees the access eligibility needed to perform the work. I have painted a bleak picture, but not all is lost, as there are many hard-working security professionals doing their best to right the ship, if only we could take the HR out of the equation.