The Security Clearance Applicant Loses in the DSS vs. NBIB Debate
The congressional push for a return to the “old days” when the Defense Security Service conducted all of the background investigations for the DoD prompted various news outlets (Federal News Radio, FedSmith, Government Executive) to weigh in. Even the Office of Personnel Management (parent of NBIB), which remained out of the fray for much of the debate, finally flexed its political muscle, largely due to the prospect of losing 75% of its current revenue were DSS to take over the background investigation process.
The DoD submitted a transition plan to the House Armed Services Committee in response to the 2017 NDAA signed by the President. OPM conducted their own study of DoD’s plan and contends it is not realistic and would duplicate government efforts and tax personnel and financial resources without really reducing the backlog or wait times. The DoD countered OPM’s assessment and contends that their three-phased approach would enable them to make a significant dent into the current backlog within the first 12 months while at the same time, develop their own investigative capabilities and processes and take over full responsibility from the NBIB within 36 months.
Private industry has weighed in with their opposition to the proposed changes put forth in the 2017 NDAA, arguing that “transferring responsibilities to DSS would create a parallel process that would drain resources, cause further delays, hinder process improvements, and undermine reciprocity efforts across the government”.
Memories appear to be hazy, as it was just more than a decade ago that the shift of investigations to OPM occurred for exactly the same reasons cited for the current proposal. One thing I think we can all agree on is this: until Congress, DoD, and OPM all get on the same sheet of music the clearance process will not get better and potential job applicants will continue to find jobs elsewhere. Ultimately, it is the security clearance applicant who draws the short end of the stick here.