For several months leadership across the Defense Security Service (DSS) and National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) have hinted that an Executive Order to move the background investigations mission to DSS is forthcoming. Comments from DSS officials today indicate the move could come as early as this week. The order is reported to be in the president’s hands, awaiting his signature. The move would be a part of the White House’s plan to overhaul (aka gut) the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency currently responsible for more than 90% of all federal background investigations.
The move will grow DSS from a staff of approximately 1,000 to more than 6,000, in addition to a number of contract background investigators. DSS would also take over the technology aspect of the personnel security program, the National Background Investigation System (NBIS). NBIS is currently managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), but a memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan is expected to come soon after the executive order is signed, with the full transition completed by the end of the fiscal year.
In June the White House announced its plans to overall the federal government’s administrative branches, specifically OPM. The plan included several pages outlining the transfer of background investigation responsibilities to the DoD. In the five months since the plan was released there has been speculation as to the timeline for the transfer. Even without the official marching orders provided by an Executive Order, however, officials within both NBIB and DSS have been working to plan for the eventual transition.
Currently, the plan to move investigative capacity to DSS seems more like a transfer than an overhaul – it’s anticipated that the majority of NBIB’s capabilities will simply roll under the DSS umbrella. ODNI is optimistic it will be able to accomplish process improvements of its own, but those will be unrelated to the Executive Order.
ODNI made heads turn last week with an announcement that it expects to reduce the size of the cleared workforce from the 600,000 pending background investigations today, to 300,000 within the next six months. It remains to be seen how it will accomplish that reduction.