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:
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.
The Government has a responsibility to determine the fitness of Federal employees, members of the Armed Forces, and contractors for the jobs they are hired into and can be trusted in the sensitive work they do on behalf of the American people each and every day. At the same time, we as leaders in Government must work diligently to protect the information these individuals give us in order to verify their readiness.
With these responsibilities in mind, today, the Federal Government announced a series of changes to modernize and strengthen the way we conduct background investigations for Federal employees and contractors and protect sensitive data. These changes include the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), which will absorb the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) existing Federal Investigative Services (FIS), and be headquartered in Washington, D.C. This new government-wide service provider for background investigations will be housed within the OPM. Its mission will be to provide effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. Unlike the previous structure, the Department of Defense will assume the responsibility for the design, development, security, and operation of the background investigations IT systems for the NBIB.
Today’s announcement comes after an interagency 90-Day Suitability and Security review commenced last year in light of increasing cybersecurity threats, including the compromise of information housed at OPM, to re-examine reforms to the Federal background investigations process, assess additional enhancements to further secure information networks and systems, and determine improvements that could be made to the way the Government conducts background investigations for suitability, security and credentialing.
This review was conducted by the interagency Performance Accountability Council (PAC), which is chaired by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and comprised of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in their respective roles as Security and Suitability Executive Agents of the PAC, and the Departments of Defense (DOD), the Treasury, Homeland Security, State, Justice, Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others. It also included consultation with outside experts.
We are proud of the collaborative effort of the interagency team that helped identify these critical reforms. And we are committed to protecting the security of not only our systems and data, but also the Personally Identifiable Information of the people we entrust with protecting our national security.
We also want to thank the men and women of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services for the work they do every day to provide quality background investigations to agencies across Government.
The Administration will establish a transition team that will develop a plan to stand up NBIB and migrate the existing functions of the current Federal Investigative Service to the NBIB, and to make sure that agencies continue to get the investigative services they need during the transition.
For more information about today’s announcement please go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/22/way-forward-federal-background-investigations.
I love visiting with Federal workers!
This past week I had the special opportunity to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland to meet and share donuts and coffee with some dedicated OPM employees from our agency’s Federal Investigative Office and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).
I met such talented and engaged employees like Elaine Bosserman, who has been at OPM for 8 of the 12 years she’s worked for the Federal government. Elaine is a FIS investigative case analyst who evaluates personnel security and suitability background investigations to make sure they meet our national security and quality standards. And I visited with Cassandra, who has served her country as a Federal employee for 33 years. For the past 8 years, Cassandra has supported OPM’s mission by overseeing a team that performs a number of record checks in connection with FIS background investigations.
My trip to Ft. Meade was my first visit in 2014 with OPM employees in the field, but it won’t be my last. One of my highest priorities as Director of OPM is to be a champion of Federal employees all across this great country. And I hope to carry that message personally to as many people in our Federal family as I can.
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