Defense

DISA awards $75 million sole-source deal for background check IT

secure file (Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com) 

The Defense Information Systems Agency and Defense Security Service awarded a sole-source $75 million contract to Perspecta to continue updating the National Background Investigations System using "other transaction authority" to get around competitive bidding requirements.

The two-year deal, which was signed May 14, is part of an ongoing effort to modernize the IT system that handles the nation's clearance requests and investigations.

The deal follows a $49 million 2018 OTA contract with Perspecta to prototype an integrated case management system for background checks. Perspecta was then tasked with building a unique enterprise system that integrates several disparate systems to help winnow the nation's security clearance backlog and improve the clearance process, Washington Technology reported.

Going the OTA route has cut acquisition time by almost two-thirds, from one to two years to five or six months,Stephen Heath, deputy acquisition director at DSS, said on a May 21 call with reporters.

Modernizing the federal government's legacy background check infrastructure has been a priority across multiple administrations since the 2014 hack of the Office of Personnel Management. The National Background Investigation Bureau was created to take over background investigations, and the Trump administration has pushed to move NBIB from the Office of Personnel Management to the Department of Defense.

DSS is scheduled to absorb NBIB by the end of fiscal 2020. That move includes a name change for DSS -- it will be known as the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

However, the move from OPM to DOD isn't as simple as flipping a switch. In a FY2020 budget justification document, the Pentagon acknowledges that the clearance process will have to rely on OPM resources and systems to process background checks during a transition phase, while OPM might look to DOD as it continues to work to eliminate the current backlog of investigations.

It's too soon to tell how much these IT and business system changes will shorten the clearance vetting process. Patricia Stokes, director of the defense vetting service at DSS, said a "full transformation of the business process end to end" would make the clearance process more efficient and effective.

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 lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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