Background Investigations

OPM Out – National Investigative Service Agency In?

Could it be true? For years I have argued to anyone who would listen, that OPM should not have been given responsibility for national security background investigations. As a security professional in various roles over a number of years, I have seen how the government has allowed human resources managers to inject themselves into what was inherently a security responsibility. At the highest levels, HR senior executives made power grabs in order to give themselves more responsibilities for their performance ratings. As a result, what were once effective background investigation processes were turned into paperwork shuffles and a check the block farce.

Word on the street, as noted in a recent article on Fed News Radio, is that there is serious thought being put into standing up a new agency that would take national security investigations back from OPM. If this option were chosen then the new agency would be called the National Investigative Service Agency. This is still speculation, as there are still other options also being considered, like giving the process back to the DoD, or even turning it over to DHS or the FBI. Also still on the table is leaving with OPM and continuing to institute reforms, and that, in my opinion, would be the worst option.

Government agencies and security industry leaders are meeting and providing feedback to the Suitability and Security Performance Accountability Council who will decide which path to take moving forward. Hopefully they will choose to give security functions back to true security professionals. Here is an interesting quote by Joan Dempsey, executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton and former deputy director of Central Intelligence for Community Management. She said “If we treated personnel security as a mission, rather than as an administrative function we have to deal with, then we would be able to spend the money and solve the problem.”

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    If this turns out to be true, then good riddance, OPM! Although I work for an OPM contractor, I realize the desire for this industry to be reformed. I hope I’m given the chance to work for either this new agency or its (hopefully) not-for-profit contractors. Let’s hope all the issues and problems created by OPM are eradicated and these investigations truly become investigations and do not remain simply box-checking verification meetings.

  2. Avatar

    Excellent comments Marko and spot on. Having an HR agency handle this BI process has made the whole thing, well, HR bureaucratic and not security-centric. This is particularly insidious because there is the appearance of being security-centric even when it has been reduced to box-checking bureaucratic.

    While it would be great for security clearance background investigations to given to another security-based government agency, it wouldn’t be good to insource the whole process. There is a lot of talent in the contractor ranks (including season BI’s and retired agents, military intel, and cops) and most of these folks wouldn’t or couldn’t join as a full-time employee. The possibility of making the agency a non-profit entity would be very smart.

    My fear all along has been that the process has been so cheapened by the OPM HR-bureaucratization, in combination with the treacherous shyster and greedy contractors doing the bulk of the work, that those who have had exposure to this BI process in the past decade (sources, neighbors, et al.) now think the whole thing is not a real or serious investigation.