Tomorrow the House’s Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce will hold a hearing titled “Security at Stake: An Examination of DOD’s Struggling Background Check System” in an effort to bring light to ongoing issues with the implementation of the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS), the IT overhaul that has cost the government more than half a billion dollars and that was originally scheduled for implementation in 2019.

Evolving timelines and project scope have beleaguered the program almost from the start. Now as the government looks to implement the next stage of its Trusted Workforce 2.0 effort, it does so waiting for NBIS to become fully operational and for the sunsetting of legacy systems.

In prepared statements published in advance of the hearing, Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) Director David Cattler and Alissa Czyz, director, Defense Capabilities Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GA)), outlined issues with NBIS and paths to get the program on track.

Delays in NBIS have contributed to the background investigation process being on the Government Accountability Office’s high risk list since 2018. Czyz’s report to Congress doesn’t bury the lead, titled “DOD Needs to Improve
Management of the National Background Investigation Services Program.” It goes on to outline the ongoing issues with cost and scope oversight, along with addressing new concerns over privacy and cybersecurity in both OPM legacy systems and NBIS.

Prepared remarks released by the committee note DCSA will be working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (USD(I&S)) and the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) as it moves forward. Cattler highlighted five key actions for the NBIS recovery effort: “modernizing and migrating NBIS applications, aligning acquisition and development actions, adapting our NBIS workforce, aligning program cost and service pricing, and strengthening cybersecurity protections.”

When Cattler took the helm of DCSA this spring, the USD(I&S) had just completed a review of NBIS.

“These reviews determined there will be a delay in NBIS delivery and sunsetting of legacy IT systems, hindering the timely achievement of critical TW 2.0 milestones and the Federal government’s implementation vetting reform. The analysis of the NBIS program identified several key problems including in oversight, software development methodologies, acquisition strategy, team competencies, and leadership,” Cattler’s remarks stated.

The NBIS recovery effort seeks to address the shortfalls in the program that have kept it from being implemented over the past several years, and pending further staffing and approval, it will begin a digital transformation that takes existing applications, such as the Defense Information System and Security (DISS), and rather than dissolving them into NBIS, gives them the functionality, security, and enhancements needed to accelerate the technological delivery of critical personnel vetting functions.

In addition to decoupling technologies and doubling down on already functional systems like DISS, Cattler’s remarks note he has proposed the migration of some systems into the DoD Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC). As it looks to streamline and scale, however, DCSA is not discounting the need for big brother DoD’s oversight. With DoD transferring NBIS milestone decision authority to USD(A&S), there is additional ‘rigor and discipline’ applied to the agency’s software acquisition process.

Despite the significant capital investment and efforts to date, NBIS’ continued failure to meet the mission have led to questions about if it will ever come online. And as recently as this April a report by the Defense Innovation Board was calling for an upgrade or overhaul of NBIS – or that it should be replaced.

Over the past month key personnel within DCSA have doubled down on NBIS being here to stay – even if its new modus operandi will be more focused on bringing subsystems and existing functionalities online than rebuilding.

“DCSA will move forward with a program that instills confidence, a program that delivers capabilities to uphold mission without fail. I am confident in our path forward and expect to be held accountable,” Cattler’s remarks note.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer