The Obama administration unveiled the specifics of how it will structure and manage its new background investigations bureau, introducing its new director and attempting to assuage concerns the entity is simply slapping a new name on an existing structure without making significant changes.
The National Background Investigations Bureau has opened, with all employees of the Federal Investigative Service transitioning to the new Office of Personnel Management component. NBIB will house about 2,500 federal employees and an additional 6,000 contract workers.
President Obama announced the creation of NBIB in January after the sweeping changes recommended by multiple reports and advisory panels following Edward Snowden’s document release and Aaron Alexis’ shooting of employees at the Washington Navy Yard. NBIB formally began its transition efforts in March and announced indefinite contracts with four vendors to conduct investigative fieldwork earlier this month.
Charles Phalen, currently the vice president of corporate security for Northrop Grumman, will head up the bureau. Phalen worked for 30 years in various roles at the CIA and FBI, most recently from 2007 to 2011 as the CIA director of security. He said recently on a call with reporters he was happy to join the NBIB team and was confident the government was “heading down a real, meaningful path” to create change.
“We will modernise the way we conduct background investigations and protect the information behind it,” Phalen said.
Phalen and other OPM officials, including acting Director Beth Cobert, stressed the bureau’s focus on reducing the investigations backlog, and said the NBIB’s priorities and organisational structure, cemented through an executive order issued by Obama, would bring the timetable for completing a background check closer to statutory requirements.
OPM is currently averaging 128 days to complete the investigative portion of secret clearance investigations, nearly triple the 40-day requirement, and 170 days for top secret, more than double the 80-day requirement.
NBIB will house a new law enforcement unit that will work with state and local governments to improve information sharing. The unit will seek to digitise more information and create databases that collect records on an automated basis, rather than relying on field personnel. The unit will also maintain criminal history records and data collected from local law enforcement on a digital platform.
Source: Cyber Security Intelligence