Senators Send Second Letter to OPM about Progress of the National Background Investigations Bureau


Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

In a follow up to a letter sent in May 2016, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) have sent a second letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) expressing concern about the transition of the government background check process from the Federal Investigative Services (FIS) to the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB).

In the letter dated August 23, 2016, Senators McCaskill and Tester wrote they “have seen a flawed background check system severely undermine our national security” in recent years and expressed hope that “a new personal security clearance system can strengthen national security” but that this would “only occur through a well-planned transition that is properly executed.”

However, the Senators have not receive any of the documentation requested in the first letter sent on May 18, 2016: Now, less than 60 days from the OPM’s self-imposed deadline, we are deeply concerned that the most basic structures of the bureau – including an organizational leadership chart, physical location, or employee credentialing process – are not yet in place.

As a result, Senators McCaskill and Tester are requesting the following information and accompanying documentation from the OPM no later than September 6, 2016:

  • A detailed description of NBIB functions as of October 1, 2016.
  • Further information on the development of an IT infrastructure and case management system to be used by NBIB.
  • An update on the existing backlogs in the background investigation system for which OPM is responsible.
  • An answer regarding the feasibility of OPM meeting the self-imposed deadline of October 1, 2016.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog in May 2016, Senators McCaskill and Tester wrote a first letter to the OPM that raised concerns about the transition of federal security clearance background checks from the FIS to the newly created NBIB. They asked the OPM to provide the information about the creation of the NBIB to them no later than June 17, 2016.

In January 2016, ESR News reported that the U.S. government announced the creation of the NBIB to modernize and strengthen government background checks. The NBIB will be housed within the OPM and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for the design, development, security, and operation of IT systems for the NBIB.

As also reported by ESR News in July 2015, the OPM announced that sensitive information including Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for 21.5 million people was compromised in a database breach involving the background checks of current, former, and prospective Federal employees and contractors. More information is available at


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