While the backlog of security clearance investigations fell from more than 700,000 at the beginning of last year to about 600,000 by the end of December, there is still progress to be made. The number of investigations reached a rate of 3,000 to 4,000 per week, which is still a significant workload for a program still trying to overcome the effects of the Office of Personnel Management breach and its own antiquated systems.

As reported by Chris Corillie, federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government, as result the Department of Defense has begun to seek out industry partners that are skilled in Agile development methods. The DoD is looking for contractors who can manage a new IT system designed to streamline the process of conducting background checks.

Corillie reported As a result the Department of Defense has begun to seek industry partners that are skilled in Agile development methods. Last month the Pentagon called upon vendors that could provide “Continuous Development, Operations, and Support,” to fill a soon-to-be-established program executive office that would serve as a government-wide clearinghouse for security clearance background investigations. The primary responsibility of these contractors would be to manage and scale newly developed IT platforms that could automate many aspects of the existing National Background Investigation System (NBIS).

Defense Information Systems Agency’s Modernization Efforts

Internal progress has already been made in modernizing the background check process. The Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) NBIS program office released its first set of capabilities (release 1.0) back in October, and deployed release 1.5 at the end of last December. A group of around 1,000 individuals who were undergoing security investigations have served as the early adopters of NBIS.

This is just the first set of updates to the system, and DISA will be releasing new capabilities approximately every three months as part of the government-wide security clearance modernization effort known as “Trusted Workforce 2.0.” The initiative was launched last March by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

“These capability releases are important steps to help the federal government realize its Trusted Workforce 2.0 initiative,” said Heidi Cotter, NBIS program manager in a statement. “We look forward to building upon our success and lessons learned from NBIS release 1.0 and 1.5 to implement future releases.”

DISA has been on track to release the next iteration of eApp, the background investigation app that was set to replace the Electronic Questionnaire Investigation Processing, known as e-QIP. Capabilities will initially focus on support for Tier 1 background suitability/credentialing investigations – positions classified as non-sensitive – and later add support for Tiers 2-5, which cover positions designated as public trust through critical sensitive and special sensitive (secret and top secret level).

“DISA plans to deliver capabilities incrementally, and to gradually expand the early adopter group size,” Cotter added.

Contracting Out the Process

A leading contender for the NBIS contract is Chantilly, Virginia-based Hewlett Packard spin off Perspecta Inc. The company was already issued a $49 million “other transaction” agreement (OTA) in June of last year to build a prototype for the management system of NBIS through Perspecta’s Enterprise Services LLC subsidiary.

That award was possible via a prototype sub-agreement that was provided by an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with the Consortium Management Group (CMG) on behalf of Consortium for Command, Control and Communications in Cyberspace (C5).

Perspecta is currently the nation’s largest provider of background investigative services and it offers a full suite of investigative services which are designed to aid government organizations identify, investigate and mitigate risk. The company, which has forged partnerships with Accenture Federal Services, Pegasystems, Next Tier Concepts, Torch Research and CA Technologies, will deliver a government-wide IT system to provide support suitability, security and credentialing (SSC) investigations for all federal employees.

The Virginia-based firm has said this will include a standardized investigative platform designed to be scalable, highly configurable and will offer the ability to be integrated with existing systems and agencies. The new IT system will also improve the existing investigative process with a more streamlined case management system. Perspecta has said this will provide enhanced visibility into investigative data and give field investigators a robust suite of collaboration and investigative tools to support their mission.

“Determining an individual’s trustworthiness to have access to U.S. government facilities, information systems and data is one of the key focus areas of Perspecta’s analytics program,” said Mac Curtis, president and CEO of Perspecta, via a statement.

“That is why we have brought together the best and brightest team of industry experts in case and content management, national security, clearance processing and data analytics to support this critical DISA program, and provide our government customers with the highest degree of assurance and security,” Curtis added.

Perspecta already holds one of the four NBIB contracts for clearance-related investigative field work via its subsidiary KeyPoint Government Solutions Inc. That contract has generated $720 million since September 2016.

The other three NBIB contracts are currently held by CACI International Inc. ($260 million), General Dynamics Corp. ($204 million), and Securitas AB ($167 million). All four contracts are set to expire at the end of fiscal 2021.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.