The National Background Investigation Bureau announced its new director this week. It’s currently winding up for its Oct. 1 start, despite continuing congressional criticism about the new agency’s self-imposed timelines, and the 500,000 background investigation backlog its set to inherit.
The new director has a security background and Intelligence Community experience. Charles Phalen spent 30 years in the CIA, serving as the CIA’s director of security in his final role with the agency. He also spent a stint with the FBI
Acting OPM director Beth Cobert announced the appointment in a conference call with reporters. Cobert noted the challenges Phalen inherits – an aging system with a serious need for a cyber overhaul, following a breach that left the personal data of more than 20 million exposed. She also noted the backlog issue, which is leaving both contractors and clearance applicants in the lurch.
“There are timeliness standards, and for the last number of quarters we have not met them,” said Cobert.
Cobert noted that hiring 400 new federal investigators was a part of their approach to reduce the backlog, but more effort is needed. One new effort is the creation of the Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE), a new office within NBIB that will work to automate the background investigation process. Jim Onusko, currently the acting director of NBIB, will stay on to lead the new division.
Phalen noted that timeliness is a problem he plans to address immediately, and that he seeks to ‘transform’ the way background investigations are conducted.
After his CIA career, Phalen spent 5 years working at Northrop Grumman as vice president, Corporate and Enterprise Shared Services (ESS) Industrial Security.