COVID-19 revamped the way a number of business processes were done – even opening the doors for more virtual background investigations interviews through the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). VTC interviews were an option prior to COVID, but became a business necessity as employees found themselves remote and investigators couldn’t visit offices to gather information. But as many have pointed out, this fall, with many organizations reopening and back to work plans in swing, questions are arising as to whether some of the ‘Macgyvered’ solutions are here to stay. Visitors to the ClearanceJobsBlog are now wondering if DCSA will continue the virtual background investigation model as things open back up to in-person.
Why is DCSA continuing to mandate telephonic or VTC interviews for all their field work?
I know they went to telephone/VTC to decrease the backlog that OPM/NBIB created back around 2014-2017, however, why do they continue to mandate that these interviews be done by phone if when there are serious issues involved in a case? This makes absolutely no sense to me. All other federal agencies allow the Investigator and the public determine how the interview should be conducted based upon local circumstances of COVID-19. I am surprised more federal agencies aren’t speaking out in opposition to DCSA conducting all the investigative work by telephone.
Only three years ago it was a major issue to conduct any work by telephone for OPM/NBIB without meeting the criteria of a telephonic interview. Now it’s become the wild, wild west regarding telephone work. Yes, a pandemic made it necessary to conduct telephone work for a period, however, the work should be back to being done in person as the pandemic lessens and wanes in this country. I find the telephone policy with DCSA to be contradictory and hypocritical from what it is now vs. what it was prior to 2018. All of us investigators used to get eviscerated for conducting a telephone interview without having met six different criteria. Now it’s looked down upon to go in person to conduct field work. What a schizophrenic agency. And yes, I know it’s a new agency but many of the managerial personnel from OPM/NBIB were transferred over to DCSA.
EFFICIENCY OF VIRTUAL background investigations
The use of both VTC and phone screening processes proved an essential piece to keeping background investigations moving forward. This followed the then-National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) piloted programs to allow VTC subject interviews to be conducted in an effort to reduce the security clearance backlog.
According to DCSA policy, yes, investigators are still authorized to conduct telephonic interviews with subjects. VTC and phone interviews aren’t a band-aid solution to a COVID problem, but a business process improvement designed to help investigators do their jobs better.
One federal investigator on the blog notes, “There are phased re-openings of local offices based on COVID numbers, but several of us including myself, have been back in the field for over a month. Currently, being in the field is voluntary until the next phase of COVID numbers are met.”
The convenience of having virtual interviewing in your toolbox for background investigations is too good to pass up. In fact, a few of the investigators note that they believe subjects are even more forthcoming over the phone in their experience, noting the quality of interviews does not seem to be compromised.
The same poster replies to the thread that what people should be asking is why are backlog mitigation policies still in place. “When you figure that out, you will figure out why video and telephone is here to stay.”