Defense Security Service on tap to takeover security clearances by Oct. 1

Defense Deputy Secretary Pat Shanahan is expected to sign a memo moving the National Background Investigations Service from DISA to DSS.

Pat Shanahan
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan

Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan is close to signing a memo to move the National Background Investigation Services technology from the Defense Information Systems Agency to the Defense Security Service.

The change would be among the steps the administration is expected to take over the next few months to bring the entire security clearance process from the Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau to the Pentagon’s DSS. President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order making the change permanent in the coming weeks.

Stuart Timerman, the director of DISA’s Development and Business Center, said Monday that it’s unclear when Shanahan will sign the memo, but the plan is to have the transition completed, at least on paper, by Oct. 1.

“DSS will go from a fairly small organization of less than 1,000 people to around 6,000 when it’s all said and done. This is consolidation around all the like capabilities for background investigations,” Timerman said during a press briefing at the DISA forecast to industry day. “The time frame is during this fiscal year for the transition. When the Defense Deputy Secretary will sign the memo, we don’t know.”

Until transition, NBIS technology to improve

Timerman said when the change happens, Terry Carpenter, DISA’s services development executive and acting program executive officer for NBIS, would transfer to DSS with the background investigation technologies.

Until the transition happens in October or whenever, DISA will continue to develop and improve the NBIS technology and systems.

DISA already is seeing initial results from the first contract awarded in June to Enterprise Services for $49 million to build a case management system under an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement.

“It’s a very limited product that is out there right now and it went live Oct. 1,” Timerman said. “Portions of the Marines Corps are utilizing it as well as the Army. It’s a very small group making sure they’ve got the product right and work out any potential bugs or whatever that may exist in the product. They were very pleased to hit the Oct. 1 deadline and they do have that capability in use now.”

The capability Timerman is referring to is a new eApp to replace the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system. The new application form should resolve some of the frustrations users currently have with eQIP. For example, the application is divided into 10 main sections, which users can jump back and forth between using the navigation bar.

Each of the 10 sections are split into individual sub-sections, where questions are organized and displayed on a single page. In the past, e-QIP users had to click through several pages to answer questions related to one topic. When users add in an address, the new system automatically cross-checks their entries with the U.S. Postal Service and its databases.

The decision to move the entire security clearance process to DoD is part of the administration’s plan to reorganize the government. OPM now faces a backlog of 600,000 security clearances. DoD and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence plan to cut that in half by ramping up their use of continuous evaluation.

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