Paper file storage seems so 1980. But potentially the only thing more cumbersome than the thought of buildings of paper personnel and legal files is the security hurdles with taking those files and converting them into digital formats. (Anyone with an OPM background investigation file also isn’t naturally trusting of the government’s digital storage solutions). Enter everyone’s favorite solution to every natural problem: bring on the bots.

The GSA recently signed on for its first robot powered file retrieval system in a 250,000 square foot FBI central records warehouse. The facility is located in Winchester, VA, and was certified by the National Archives and Records Administration. An AutoStore cube storage technology using 140 radio controlled robots in a 16-level deep system will help contain information from more than 250 FBI field offices. Personnel are still needed for file retrieval, but the system employed by the GSA reduces the number of individuals needed significantly. Now more than 2 billion pages of data will be retrieved by a robot fleet. Bonus? the bots are coronavirus free.

Robots, Record Checks, and Clearance Processing

One of the current dilemma’s for federal background investigators is the issue of verifying certain records with many facilities and offices closed. The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, for instance, announced that due to worsening COVID-19 conditions it reduced its staff to less than 10% of its normal capacity.

Background investigators have been able to keep many processes moving forward thanks to VTC personnel subject interviews, a largely remote workforce, and the move to Continuous Vetting over more traditional periodic reinvestigations. But some hurdles are hard to overcome, and the need to verify some records directly has kept up to tens of thousands of investigations pending, all thanks to the coronavirus. Robotic file retrieval may be one solution to help keep background investigations moving forward, along with keeping files secure.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.