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 Oct. 1, 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:
-- Enhanced IT security through continued partnership with DoD. NBIB and the Department of Defense (DoD) will work in close collaboration to develop the next generation IT digital platform that will be modern, secure and mission-driven. The digital environment will be built on a foundation of government-wide standards that promote security, interoperability, and information sharing that are the key principles outlined in the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Enterprise IT Strategy.
-- Creation of a law enforcement liaison unit to improve criminal history records access and information exchanges in a digitized platform. A major component of the work done by NBIB will involve the acquisition and management of records from a variety of sources, including its counterparts in law enforcement. It is vital that background investigators have the critical Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) from state and local law enforcement agencies in order to have complete data with which to conduct their investigations. One key to improving the timeliness of investigations is the ability to obtain these records through automated databases and exchanges, which currently in many communities can only be obtained by field investigators.
-- Creation of an office to lead the way in automation and management of background investigation records collection. The establishment of a Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE) office will equip NBIB to lead the way in automation and management of government-wide investigative records collection and retention. NBIB’s FIRE office will promote records automation and an increased focus on information sharing agreements with interagency partners, state and local entities, and commercial records providers. The FIRE will be dedicated to standardizing data exchanges for records information as a hallmark of the investigations enterprise, leveraging new and evolving data sources such as social media checks. The FIRE will work closely with the newly established Law Enforcement Liaison Office to promote and augment cooperative exchanges of vital records in a digitized platform.
-- Establishment of a Business Transformation Unit dedicated to transforming business processes to be more efficient. Business Process Reengineering methodologies will identify needs and requirements that improve the timeliness and cost of investigations. Working with NBIB’s interagency partners, the unit will strategically migrate traditional investigative processes to leverage continuously available data sources and new sources of relevant information. NBIB’s policy function will employ analytics for effective data-driven policies and decisions.
-- Reorganized field operations to consolidate management of federal and contract field operations. NBIB will consolidate management of Federal and contract investigative functions under a single organization. This provides better organizational alignment and facilitates efforts to synchronize workload management efforts on a global scale across NBIB’s multiple investigative resources and to leverage new tools for workload management as they are designed and built. Management of the counterintelligence activity function will also be streamlined to focus on important national security and other interagency engagement.
-- Establishment of a dedicated Customer Engagement unit focused on customer service delivery. This unit will embed interagency representation of skilled and experienced personnel from stakeholder agencies. An Interagency Customer Service Advisory Board (ICSAB) will be established to advise the NBIB Director on issues relevant to customer service.
-- Dedicated support to NBIB. As announced earlier this year, NBIB will have dedicated resources to support its mission and provide NBIB the ability to function effectively and efficiently. It will have its own procurement staff and contracting activity, as well as a senior privacy official, while continuing to leverage the shared services within OPM. NBIB will have dedicated support personnel in the areas of legal counsel, communications, congressional affairs, and human resources.
-- Consolidating Suitability Executive Agent. OPM will form a dedicated Suitability Executive Agent entity to consolidate and enhance the suitability policy, oversight, and adjudications functions. This dedicated unit will report to the OPM Director, and provide agencies expanded guidance on policies and processes related to suitability. It will also engage in a two-way dialogue with agencies to identify opportunities to further modernize and make more efficient processes and tools used for suitability decisions.
The changes announced today [Sept. 29] 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.
Factsheet: National Background Investigations Bureau