Whether you think Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth” or the tourist trap of all tourist traps, one thing is certain: they’ve got their operations down to a science.

I have no shame in admitting that I enjoy a Disney trip on occasion. Despite the seemingly ever-increasing crowds, each time I go I am amazed at how everything runs like a finely tuned machine. Somehow, even on the busiest days of the year, they manage to crank thousands of people through that park while still keeping the rides running, the lines moving, and the money flowing in.

It strikes me that perhaps the newest federal background investigation service provider, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), could learn a few things from Disney. DCSA already has a tall order on its hands in taking over for the much-maligned Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and bringing into this century a background investigation process that has been largely stagnant since the 1980’s.  But to do that effectively and efficiently will mean the difference between DCSA succeeding or becoming OPM by another name. Here are a few suggestions for any DCSA brass who might be listening:


Nothing spoils a day at Disneyland – or negatively impacts national security readiness – like long lines that seemingly don’t move.  The backlogs for security clearances we’ve seen over the past couple years are ludicrous; a private sector enterprise like Disney would have found a solution for them in short order. Some of Disney’s line management solutions have included the advent of the “Fast Pass”, distractions like animatronics and art work for those waiting in line, and adding extra capacity to rides so that guests are cycled through more quickly. DCSA should be thinking along the same lines in streamlining the clunky “box-checking” interview style that pervaded OPM; allowing source interviews to be conducted by telephone; and leveraging technology for mundane tasks like records checks.


By all accounts, Disney invests significant time and resources in training their employees (called “cast members”) how to do their jobs and effectively interact with guests, including the difficult variety. As a former OPM investigator, I’ll be the first to admit that the government’s current training for investigators is woefully inadequate. Coming into the job, I and some of my fellow trainees had a background in law enforcement which gave us a leg up on important things like interview technique and non-verbal cues (body language). But some trainees were hired right out of college or from fields entirely unrelated to investigations. These folks had the ability to become good investigators, but they were not given the training and support necessary to get there. The result is that they would, for example, not look up once from their “script” during an entire subject interview or fail to recognize and follow-up on important leads.


Finally, The Walt Disney Company, like any other corporation, has an obligation to its shareholders to spend money judiciously and maximize profits. The government doesn’t exist to make a profit, but it should be accountable to the taxpayers when spending their hard-earned money.  OPM had a sizeable budget but still managed to squander much of it on pointless minutiae while leaving critical infrastructure vulnerable (remember the OPM hack?), and undertraining/underpaying its investigators. Hopefully, DCSA leadership will see fit to spend their budget where it actually matters: on a professional workforce of investigators who know how to actually investigate, and on secure technology that maximizes efficiency.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation

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Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com