White House gives the nod to move background checks to DOD

PII (jijomathaidesigners/ 

A long-awaited executive order issued late on April 24 shifts all of the federal government's background investigation functions from the Office of Personnel Management to the Defense Department.

The transfer is set to start June 24 and finish by Sept. 30, the close of fiscal year 2019. The National Background Investigations Bureau's move is expected to be a lift and shift, with the mission and personnel staying intact.

Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told FCW that NBIB employees will "continue to perform their day-to-day functions and tasks within their respective areas," but long-term plans for transferred personnel and facilities are still being developed and any changes "will happen over time."

Additionally, the effects on contractors and individual contracts are unclear, Andrews said.

"It is too early to discuss specific contracts or the impact on contractor personnel," he said. "Every effort will be made to eliminate redundancies and make the most efficient use of contracts.”

"Each contract will be individually reviewed throughout the transfer, transition, and transformation of the personnel vetting enterprise to ensure an effective and cost-efficient background investigation service," Andrews added.

As the Defense Security Service absorbs the NBIB, it will also change its name to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

The transfer, which has been in the workssince last year, was sparked after OPM suffered a major breach in 2015 that exposed personal data on more than 20 million federal employees and family members, including security clearance forms. DOD used to lead the investigations for the government but shifted the responsibility out to OPM in 2003.

OPM and NBIB have come under criticism for large backlogs of security clearance investigations, but numbers have improved in recent months. According to a report on, NBIB Director Charles Phalen put the overall backlog figure at 498,000 – a 32% drop from the peak of 725,000 in remarks at an April 16 event.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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