The June Defense Security Service newsletter offered details of a new fee for service study which would allow Department of Defense (DoD) contract employers to pay for the security clearance investigation costs of their personnel.
DoD is currently in the middle of the study, which is being conducted from June to August of 2017. The National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee (NISSPAC) is supporting the study, which is being conducted by the Counterintelligence & Security (CI&S) Directorate, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
The NISSPAC nominated small, medium and large companies to be interviewed, and are providing a white paper to DoD for their consideration.
Why the need for the study now?
The DoD, and cleared contractors, in particular, are feeling the affect of the 690,000 case backlog and near 500-day wait for a top secret security clearance investigation. While the root of the problem is based in the downfall of USIS, a series of high profile breaches and the OPM hack, funds are also a big part of the problem.
While much is made of the investigations process, and the work of the newly formed National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), DSS has also been metering the investigations it sends to NBIB. Why the metering? Money.
The cost of background investigations has increased significantly over the past three years. Since FY 2014 the price for a Tier 1-Tier 3 investigation increased an average of 78 percent. In FY 2016 the cost for a Tier 1 investigation is $182. But the cost for the SSBI required for a Top Secret security clearance is $5,188. Why the rising costs in a time of budget woes and Continuing Resolutions? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) confirmed it was pushing some of the costs of the credit monitoring required following the OPM breach down to agencies with clearance requests. They also noted the additional costs required after the USIS contract ended.
There is a misconception that government contractors pay for their own security clearance investigations. While there are costs associated with maintaining a personnel security program or attempting to move a candidate through the process, the investigations are all paid for by DSS using appropriated funds.
Why would contractors want to pay for their own clearances?
Why would a company look to add to their bottom line, when a personnel security clearance is something they can currently obtain without paying upwards of $5,000 for an investigation? It’s a sign of the problems created by the current backlog. For companies looking to hire new talent, there is no guarantee a clearance will happen quickly. Even interim security clearances may take two or three months. Once an interim is granted, some individuals are reporting 2+ years spent working before a favorable determination is made.
For some companies, being able to contribute to the cost to move the process along is a major advantage. But that’s certainly not how all, or even most companies feel.
At the recent NCMS Annual Training Seminar many small business employers expressed displeasure with the fee-for-service model. Concern is that if some DoD contributors begin to chip in (and particularly if those are larger employers), small business defense contractors will simply see their investigators further delayed.
No matter what your thoughts are, the good news is that things are being done to address the backlog, and the current study is just that – a study designed to determine the feasibility of having defense contractors pay, not making it a reality.