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Background Investigations

A gold background on the left with the NBIB seal in dark blue. The right half has a navy blue background with the white text National Background Investigations Bureau and NBIB.gov in the right corner.

Earlier this year, the Administration announced a series of policy decisions to streamline and enhance how the Federal government conducts background investigations. A central component in this effort is the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), a new semi-autonomous entity within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). NBIB will be the primary provider of effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. NBIB is designed with an enhanced focus on national security, customer service, and continuous process improvement to meet this critical government-wide need now and in the future.

Today, the President took the next step in this effort by issuing an Executive Order (EO) that sets forth the new interagency framework to modernize, strengthen and secure the Federal Government’s background investigation process, including the roles and responsibilities for NBIB and for DoD’s related IT efforts.

In addition, the Administration is announcing the appointment of Charles S. Phalen, Jr. as NBIB’s first Director. Mr. Phalen brings a wealth of experience and security expertise from the Federal Government and the private sector to NBIB. As Director of Security for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2007 to 2011, he led the CIA’s world-wide security program, responsible for investigating and clearing agency personnel and protecting the workforce and agency facilities. From 2011 until April of 2016, Mr. Phalen served as Vice President of Corporate Security at the Northrop Grumman Corporation, and has continued to participate in several industry security organizations. In his new role, Mr. Phalen will leverage his deep expertise in personnel security, information security, and physical security from both the Federal Government and industry as he leads NBIB in its mission to deliver modernized, timely, quality background investigations.

Mr. Phalen will take the helm of NBIB, which will be headquartered in Washington D.C., beginning on October 1st, when NBIB absorbs the existing mission, functions, and personnel of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) and begins to implement a number of changes designed to improve the background investigations process.

NBIB will feature a new organizational structure that institutionalizes strategic stakeholder engagement, an agile acquisition strategy, and the use of innovative, data-driven methods to make improvements in processes.  These aspects will be critical as the new organization assumes responsibility for managing the fieldwork contracts OPM recently awarded and other important initiatives to improve capacity and draw down the current backlog of investigations. 

Key aspects of NBIB that distinguish it from the previous organization include:

  • Enhanced IT security through continued partnership with DOD. NBIB and the Department of Defense (DoD) will work in close collaboration to develop the next generation IT digital platform that will be modern, secure and mission-driven. The digital environment will be built on a foundation of government-wide standards that promote security, interoperability, and information sharing that are the key principles outlined in the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Enterprise IT Strategy.
  • Creation of a law enforcement liaison unit to improve criminal history records access and information exchanges in a digitized platform. A major component of the work done by NBIB will involve the acquisition and management of records from a variety of sources, including its counterparts in law enforcement. It is vital that background investigators have the critical Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) from state and local law enforcement agencies in order to have complete data with which to conduct their investigations. One key to improving the timeliness of investigations is the ability to obtain these records through automated databases and exchanges, which currently in many communities can only be obtained by field investigators.
  • Creation of an office to lead the way in automation and management of background investigation records collection. The establishment of a Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE) office will equip NBIB to lead the way in automation and management of government-wide investigative records collection and retention. NBIB’s FIRE office will promote records automation and an increased focus on information sharing agreements with interagency partners, state and local entities, and commercial records providers. The FIRE will be dedicated to standardizing data exchanges for records information as a hallmark of the investigations enterprise, leveraging new and evolving data sources such as social media checks.  The FIRE will work closely with the newly established Law Enforcement Liaison Office to promote and augment cooperative exchanges of vital records in a digitized platform.
  • Establishment of a Business Transformation Unit dedicated to transforming business processes to be more efficient. Business Process Reengineering methodologies will identify needs and requirements that improve the timeliness and cost of investigations.  Working with NBIB’s interagency partners, the unit will strategically migrate traditional investigative processes to leverage continuously available data sources and new sources of relevant information. NBIB’s policy function will employ analytics for effective data-driven policies and decisions.  
  • Reorganized field operations to consolidate management of federal and contract field operations. NBIB will consolidate management of Federal and contract investigative functions under a single organization. This provides better organizational alignment and facilitates efforts to synchronize workload management efforts on a global scale across NBIB’s multiple investigative resources and to leverage new tools for workload management as they are designed and built.  Management of the counterintelligence activity function will also be streamlined to focus on important national security and other interagency engagement.
  • Establishment of a dedicated Customer Engagement unit focused on customer service delivery. This unit will embed interagency representation of skilled and experienced personnel from stakeholder agencies. An Interagency Customer Service Advisory Board (ICSAB) will be established to advise the NBIB Director on issues relevant to customer service.
  • Dedicated support to NBIB.  As announced earlier this year, NBIB will have dedicated resources to support its mission and provide NBIB the ability to function effectively and efficiently. It will have its own procurement staff and contracting activity, as well as a senior privacy official, while continuing to leverage the shared services within OPM. NBIB will have dedicated support personnel in the areas of legal counsel, communications, congressional affairs, and human resources.
  • Consolidating Suitability Executive Agent.  OPM will form a dedicated Suitability Executive Agent entity to consolidate and enhance the suitability policy, oversight, and adjudications functions. This dedicated unit will report to the OPM Director, and provide agencies expanded guidance on policies and processes related to suitability. It will also engage in a two-way dialogue with agencies to identify opportunities to further modernize and make more efficient processes and tools used for suitability decisions.

The changes announced today are designed to focus on the integration of innovation and continuous business process improvement to enhance the delivery of background investigations and support an efficient and effective organization that is keenly focused on customer service and national security. The NBIB’s Director will continue the close working relationship between OPM and DoD in its significant IT leadership role and regularly consult with the larger federal community as it implements these changes to modernize and strengthen the way we conduct background investigations.



As our team at OPM continues to work tirelessly to fortify our data systems with stronger security upgrades, I wanted to notify our Federal family that we have taken the e-QIP system offline temporarily. E-QIP is a web-based platform used to complete and submit background investigation forms.

I recently ordered a comprehensive review of the security of OPM IT systems. During this ongoing review, my team and our interagency partners identified a vulnerability in the e-QIP system. Out of an abundance of caution, I have asked that the system be taken offline until stronger security enhancements are implemented.

I want to be clear that we are proactively taking this action to ensure the ongoing security of our network. This decision was not in response to direct malicious activity on this network, and there was no evidence that the vulnerability was exploited by an adversary.

While we add these security enhancements to the network, we expect the e-QIP system could be offline from four to six weeks. All of us at OPM recognize and regret the impact this action will have on both users and agencies, but please know that the team is working hard to quickly implement these security upgrades so that we can resume this service as soon as it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, we will be working with our partner agencies on alternative approaches to meet the needs of our customers.

I want to personally apologize for the inconvenience, but know that we take very seriously the responsibility OPM holds in securing Federal employee data. Improving OPM’s IT security posture is the utmost priority as we work to recruit, engage, and honor America’s talented and hardworking Federal workforce.


As we at OPM and our partners across government work quickly to investigate the nature and scope of the cyberattacks that invaded our network and systems, I want to make sure that our Federal employee family knows that I continue to work each and every day to make sure that the data OPM is entrusted with protecting is secure now and for the future.

I am as concerned as our Federal workforce by these cyberintrusions, and I want employees to know we are redoubling our efforts to make sure our systems are as secure as possible. We know that our adversaries are sophisticated, well-funded, and focused. We know this because in an average month, OPM thwarts millions of attempts to break into our network.

Before I detail the work my OPM team is doing to upgrade our aging systems, to investigate the cyberintrusions, and to plan for the future, I want to make sure all Federal employees know that OPM has continued to operate with strong confidence in the security of the data it handles.

So how did we get here? In November of 2013, when the President honored me with the assignment to lead the men and women of OPM, I quickly realized that the agency’s outdated, legacy system needed to be modernized. My team got to work on the comprehensive IT Strategic Plan during my first 100 days as OPM Director. That plan clearly identified security vulnerabilities in our aging systems. We immediately began an aggressive modernization and security overhaul.

It was because of that overhaul and the tools we put in place to strengthen our cybersecurity that OPM -- working with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- was able to detect the cyberbreaches of personnel and background investigations data. That work continues, and continues aggressively. We have upgraded our network monitoring and logging capability and added firewalls that allow OPM to better filter network traffic. The remote access for our network administrators has been restricted.

On June 4, we publicly announced that we believed that the personally identifiable information (PII) of about 4 million current and former Federal employees had been compromised. Almost immediately, we began notifying those affected and they are getting access to credit monitoring and other services they may need. As the investigation has proceeded, we recently confirmed that OPM systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former, and prospective Federal employees may have been compromised. We are working intensively to assess the scope of that attack and we will notify affected individuals as soon as possible.

Each and every day, as we work through the challenges of investigating these attacks and aggressively work on the redesign of our computer network, I am thinking about the millions of men and women who work – and who have worked – to serve the American people.

Our OPM team knows that you have entrusted your sensitive personal information to us. It is a trust we will continue to honor and one that is foremost in our minds as we do the critical work necessary to prevent, detect, and thwart future cyberattacks.

Graphic with blue background. Filling most the page is the OPM logo. Headline: UPDATED INFORMATION about recent CYBERSECURITY INCIDENTS.


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