Last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced changes designed to “modernize and strengthen” procedures for conducting background checks for federal employee and contractors and for protecting sensitive material.
The new procedures result from a interagency review directed last year in response to increasing cybersecurity threats. The review was undertaken 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 o the way Government conducts background investigations,” according to the Directors Blog posted on the OPM website.
Under the actions announced by OPM the government will establish a new organization to to performs background investigations, assign responsibility for information technology (IT) security to the Department of Defense (DoD), and clarify governance authorities, roles, and responsibilities.
A new entity, the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB), will absorb the existing Federal Investigative Service (FIS) and be the sole provider of government-wide background investigations. The new bureau will report to the OPM Director. The NBIB head will be appointed by the president and the bureau will be headquartered in Washington, DC.
DoD will design, build, secure, and operate NBIB's IT systems. The administration wants to “leverage DoD's significant national security, IT, and cybersecurity expertise, incorporating security into the fundamental design of the systems, strengthening the security of the data environment, and providing robust privacy protections.” According to OPM, the FY21017 budget will include an additional $95 to develop IT capabilities for this effort. Also, the Performance Accountability Council (PAC), chaired by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will establish an interagency cybersecurity advisory group to advise it on system development and threat mitigation.
The administration will clarify the roles of the players in the new bureau and assign new responsibilities, and issue new guidance where appropriate.
These actions are part of the administration's plan to improve the security clearance system that includes: a five-year reinvestigation requirement for all individuals with a security clearance; reducing active security clearances by 17 percent; and recommendations to enhance information sharing between State, Local, and Federal Law enforcement Agencies.