This afternoon Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency Director (DCSA) David Cattler and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Director in Defense Capabilities and Management Alissa Czyz testified before Congress on the status of the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS). That status? Not great. But it’s on a path to get better.

The key takeaway from the hearing from both Cattler and Czyz was that the programmatic mistakes that allowed NBIS to keep moving forward without tangible progress would no longer be allowed. Between new oversight internal to DCSA and new engagement from DoD, the program is set to release a new roadmap in the next month that will put critical systems online and better prioritize next stage deliverables.

The initial need for NBIS was born out of the government’s massive data breach of systems under the Office of Personnel Management. But in almost decade since the breach, NBIS has sunk more than a billion dollars into both developing new systems and maintaining the jalopy of OPM legacy systems – all while schedules and cost estimates flew out the window.

Despite its issues, Hill testimony didn’t put mission failure as an option. And even the program’s harshest critic, the GAO, noted that not having NBIS – simply wasn’t an option.

“NBIS simply cannot fail,” said Czyz. “Having fully functional and secure IT systems to conduct personnel vetting is paramount to keeping our country safe.”

With just 90 days on the job, Cattler was candid about where he was at in the review process, noting that even as he onboarded into the new job leading America’s largest security organization, the spotlight was shining on NBIS and its underperformance. he stressed responsibility and accountability as key in moving forward.

“While it’s not my fault, it’s my responsibility,” said Cattler. Details about the recovery plan and roadmap aren’t currently available as they work through staffing and approvals with the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Security and the Office of the Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment. Both offices are playing greater roles in NBIS’ development going forward.

Trusted Workforce Remains a Bright Spot

While NBIS remains a doomsday topic, Hill testimony did touch on bright spots in personnel vetting, specifically the government’s Trusted Workforce 2.0 effort. Even the GAO lauded the effort, with Czyz noting ‘not all is without hope’ and that Trusted Workforce as a reform effort has been successful. But she also warned that NBIS is now the ‘lynchpin’ of that effort, and was needed to keep the transformative effort on track.

Cattler also highlighted Trusted Workforce accomplishments within DCSA, including the implementation of Continuous Vetting across the national security population,  utilization of eApp as a component of NBIS, and monumental improvements in reciprocity into the DoD system. Technology is a part of each of those successes, and keeping those technologies running while enhancing, improving, and replacing others will be key to the new system of systems approach DCSA aims to take as it moves NBIS forward.

There is still work to be done, but within DoD there is now the leadership, oversight, and warm congressional sunshine to keep it moving forward.

“I have confidence in my team, my partners, and oversight,” emphasized Cattler.

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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