NBIB pilot looks to contractor data to speed clearances

Shutterstock photo id 669226093 By Gorodenkoff 

The Office of Personnel Management's National Background Investigations Bureau is looking to use information federal contractors gather on their employees during the hiring process to help with background checks, according to one of the organization's senior staffers.

Mark Pekrul, deputy associate director for customer service, communication and engagements, said NBIB is planning a pilot program that will allow federal contractors to submit employee background data they've gathered during the hiring process to the agency where it could be combined with federal security clearance data.

Contractors would submit materials,  such as citizenship verification and other security-related background information, through a web portal. The data would be incorporated with NBIB's data, which could set baseline data that could speed the federal background check process for contractors' employees, according to Pekrul.

He didn't name the companies involved in the pilot, but he said it would begin within the next two months.

Pekrul made his remarks at the National Archives and Records Administration's meeting of the Information Security Oversight Office's National Industrial Security Program on July 19.

Security officials at the meeting also addressed some of the changes coming with the Trump administration's effort to improve the security clearance process and help clear the logjam of unprocessed background investigations that has stymied the work of federal agencies and contractors alike.

The White House reorganization plan released June 21 proposed major changes to the security clearance process across government. Under the plan, the OPM would cede its remaining authority around background investigations to other agencies, while the NBIB would be absorbed into the Department of Defense.

That proposal -- which requires adoption by Congress -- would dramatically overhaul the federal government's approach to processing background investigations and security clearances. The Defense Security Service (DSS) is already set to take on responsibility for DOD personnel later this year, and the transfer of NBIB would make DOD the prime hub for security clearance authority, including contractor clearances.

Pekrul and officials from the DSS said their organizations are preparing plans for the shift.

Patricia Stokes, a senior security advisor for the Army, said DSS is working on a "web footprint" for the service's operations, as well as deciding on how it will be funded.

Pekrul encouraged a complete "lift and shift" of NBIB's mission capabilities rather than breaking pieces off of it to another agency.

As for the background check backlog, Pekrul said NBIB currently has a backlog of 700,900 security clearance investigations, a 1 percent decrease since the start of fiscal 2018. Of those investigations, he said, 497,000 are for the Defense Department.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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