Background Investigations

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.

Comment Archive

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    I think most of the people on this forum who contributed so much of their time and input in the past have given up all hope for any real and meaningful change. The process is a farce and becoming so bureaucratically onerous I can’t see how the private side can continue, even with shoddy box-checking rush job they’ve been doing. When I was a full-time employee (Level 3), I would work off of the clock 20 hours per week and would still get harassing/threatening calls from my supervisor about not making deadlines when I was assigned at 160% of my expectations. Right now as a contractor, I make a lot less money (Walmart employee level) and put in about 40 hours/week. As I said, the bureaucratic tedium combined with extremely, if not insanely, nit-picking of insignificant minutiae in ROIs make the whole process almost as absurd as Catch-22 (sans the humor of the inanity). But I guess the title of “investigator” is itself Catch-22-ish in that most of the investigation done by an investigator involves investigating the case requirements of the investigation. To an outsider this might seem hyperbolic, but I’m sure they can’t grasp the level of bureaucratic backwardness. We use a convoluted, decade-old handbook, which has periodically-issued superseding memos which negate some parts of some parts and then other memos negating the other parts of some parts. But frankly most investigator are forced to ignore this crap because the bureaucratic BS makes the whole thing a square peg in round hole operation at Chinese sweatshop factory level of production.

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    @dcinv – great job describing the current situation we face as investigators. I have also almost given up all hope and am waiting around until October to see if there is some major change that makes it worthwhile to stay in this profession. If the contracting companies do not double what they charge to do this work they deserve to go out of business. I truly believe that the higher ups at OPM and the contracting companies as well as our congressional reps have no clue how outdated, inefficient, and worthless some of this process has become.

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    Don’t forget about how much more work it takes to complete a Tiered case. And OPM doesn’t seem aware that, you know, it might cost its contractors a little more work to do them?

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    Be sure to check out the newest Glassdoor review (5/26/16) on the Keypoint BI job. The current/former employee breaks down the math of job pay and points out that the BI job really pays just $2 about CA minimum wage for job that involves technical, very difficult, and stressful work. But of course, the comparison with a minimum wage job is not fair. Maybe if this minimum wage job involved getting calls at 6 AM from the manager the following morning saying you had to come back in to correct a tiny, dime-sized spot, that was missed on the previous night’s mopping, then you would have a closer comparison. *And* you have to come back and take care of this on your free time. But hell, if only RZs we’re are as specific about correction as this. Instead, it’d be like you get an automated call that says you were in violation of IHB and it must be corrected.