Background Screening News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The United States federal government background check inventory returned to a stable state of approximately 200,000 background checks in February 2020, down from an estimated backlog of 725,000 cases at its peak in April 2018, according to a report on the “Security Clearance, Suitability/Fitness, and Credentialing Reform Cross-Agency Priority (CAP)” goal action plan released by the President’s Management Agenda in July 2020.

The principal agencies of the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) include the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The PAC is responsible for driving government-wide implementation of security, suitability, and credentialing reform. The report stated:

“For the first time since August 2014, the background investigation case inventory has returned to a stable state of approximately 200,000 cases. This is the result of concerted efforts, including policy changes issued by ODNI and OPM as the Executive Agents for personnel vetting, internal process improvements made by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), formerly NBIB (National Background Investigations Bureau).”

The CAP goal plan also described how timeliness has significantly improved: “The actions taken to reduce the backlog also substantially improved timelines for completion of investigations. The average time to complete a Top Secret investigation is currently down to 79 days from a high of 411 days, meeting timeliness goals for the first time since June 2014. Timeliness for Secret investigations decreased from 173 days to 56 days.”

The plan – led by ODNI Director John Ratcliffe, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security in the DoD Joseph Kernan, and Acting Deputy Director for Management in the OMB and Acting Director for OPM Mike Rigas – also adopted remote access procedures for onboarding new personnel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The report is at www.performance.gov/CAP/action_plans/july_2020_Security_Suitability.pdf.

In April 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order that transferred the responsibility for federal government background checks from the NBIB/OPM to the DoD, which reorganized and renamed the Defense Security Service (DSS) to the DCSA. The “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018” shifted the primary responsibility for conducting federal background investigations from the NBIB/OPM to the DoD.

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