The Defense Security Service is poised to take over control of Department of Defense background investigations – a job it held until 2005 when it turned over the program to the Office of Personnel Management. Can we expect anything new from this return to original operations? William Henderson, security clearance consultant and co-founder of the Federal Clearance Assistance Service discussed the history and his hopes for the future.
There are three major changes or potential changes DSS could make to the personnel security program to improve its chances of success:
1. Technology is now under the Defense Information Systems Agency.
“DSS tried to do that on their own and they failed miserably back in 1998,” said Henderson
“If they go fee for service, the funding aspect, and the manpower problems that they had all throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, that part of the problem will no longer exist,” says Henderson.
3. Improved Field Structure
The final issue is personnel and field structure – a problem DSS will have to tackle quickly if it wants to make any headway. Henderson suggests a model where a Personnel Investigation Center manages cases like a “pivot person” who can engage with field investigators on problem cases
“Everything gets fed into that center and there’s one person the investigator can interact with,” said Henderson. This is an improvement on a model of “having contract investigation companies and feed information to DSS to rubber stamp things.”
What’s the Plan
Current proposals don’t imply much change from the current system operated by the National Background Investigations Bureau. But Henderson thinks that may be by design.
“I don’t think they have much of a choice initially,” he notes. “To make major changes, they can’t interrupt the service, they’re going to have to accept it as it exists, and gradually make the changes that I hope they would make to improve the investigations.”