Personnel vetting and national security continue to move forward with a steady drumbeat of change. As the government’s fiscal year draws to a close, reform efforts that have been discussed for years are now moving forward in measurable ways, from continuous vetting and reciprocity reform to the National Background Investigations Services (NBIS) and eApp. The latest quarterly progress report released by the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) outlines key steps in current security clearance reform efforts. Here are five key reform efforts and milestones moving the personnel security transformation train forward.
1. Trusted Workforce 1.5
I, for one, hate decimals. But someone out there does, because at some point the move to Trusted Workforce 2.0 became Trusted Workforce 1.25, and then Trusted Workforce 1.5. As of September, the government has enrolled all national security sensitive personnel into its Trusted Workforce 1.5 vetting capability, which includes vetting in seven arenas. This accomplishment enables the elimination of periodic reinvestigations, and ensures the government finds out about potential issues when they happen, rather than at episodic intervals.
2. eApp roll out
“I’ve been waiting, for an [eApp] like you, to come into my life.” That’s the theme song of eApp, which has been discussed for years but is now up and running with both government and industry partners putting the new security clearance application in action. We’ve been seeing the roll-out in onesie and twosie updates and incremental shifts, but expect much more from this major improvement for security clearance applicants in the year to come.
3. NBIS in Action
NBIS is the key to many of the personnel security efforts today. As NBIS goes online and the old legacy system from OPM goes offline, the evaluation efforts of Trusted Workforce will further pick up steam. eApp, CV, the elimination of PRs – they’re all fueled by the behemoth technological overhaul that’s so big at some point it went from a ‘system’ to a set of ‘services’. Like eApp, for years NBIS has been talked about as more legend than reality. But, now NBIS is getting real.
4. Reciprocity Improvements
Reciprocity is such a dirty word in national security, some people avoid saying it. The reality is, many of the issues aren’t reciprocity at all, but issues of ‘transfer of trust’ – a topic the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) highlighted in a recent white paper. But whether you say the ‘r’ word or not, there is good news for those looking to move into a DoD position, at least – reciprocity figures have dropped from more than 40 days at the height of the clearance backlog in 2019, to an average of just 6 days today. Transferring a clearance still isn’t as simple as it should be – but within DoD, at least, it’s better.
5. Cleared Population Moving Up
Despite all of these changes, security clearance processing times continue to go down. That is perhaps the most critical piece, and the engine driving all of these personnel security efforts moving forward. It is one thing to change the way personnel vetting is done, it’s another thing to do it without breaking the system entirely. While there are still improvements to be made (including factoring in clearance processing times for all security clearance applicants and not just the fastest 90%), improvements have been made in personnel vetting, including business transformation and process reforms that have enabled DCSA, in particular, to make progress in personnel security and bring timelines within targets.
Security clearance reform will never be over – as long as there has been a personnel vetting program, there have been conversations about how to make the process better. The process will likely never reach completion, but as we head into 2023, the train is barreling forward – and picking up steam as it goes.