Contractors often complaint that the background check process is slow, while contractors and their employee alike worry about information security in the wake of a sensitive OPM data breach that leaked the personal information of millions of government workers and contractors. Now, a change to the background check process is coming.
The White House announced last week that a new government agency would be taking charge of conducting background checks on all federal employees, Armed Services members, and civilian contractors. The government hopes the change will speed up background checks on contractors, many of whom have to wait months before a background check is completed, while also maintaining security over personal information. Of course, as with any government roll-out of a new initiative, it remains to be seen whether the new agency will live up to expectations.
According to the White House, the newly-founded National Background Investigations Bureau (“NBIB”) will absorb the Federal Investigative Services (“FIS”), the agency that has been conducting background checks under the OPM. The FIS currently conducts background checks for over 100 federal agencies, which according to the White House, consists of 95% of the total background checks performed by the government.
One big difference between the NBIB and the FIS will be the involvement of the DoD in designing and managing the IT system to collect and hold background investigation data. The DoD will design, develop, and secure new software for the NBIB. Some have speculated that this may ultimately result in automated background checks, and it has been reported that President Obama will ask to devote $95 million of the 2017 fiscal year budget to developing the software. Furthermore, unlike the FIS, the NBIB will be a presidentially-appointed full member of the Performance Accountability Council (“PAC”), meaning that it must be accountable to agencies and must seek continual improvement.
For contractors, the new agency could mean expedited background checks and better security over private information. Or, it could mean another layer of red tape to cut through. It is still too early to tell. But, for those still waiting to pass a background check, the reported hiring of 400 additional FIS investigators, who will become part of the NBIB, is surely good news in terms of the one background check problem that most contractors complain about more than any other: speed.