National Background Check Investigation Bureau

By Michael Klazema on 10/18/2016

On October 1st, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) officially took over for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as the entity responsible for running background checks on federal employees and contractors. The shift is a major change for federal-level background checks as the OPM had been responsible for those screenings for many years. However, per a report from FedTech, the NBIB won't be completely up and running for another 12 to 18 months.

The reason for the delay is the "secure, backend IT architecture" that the NBIB is developing with the Department of Defense. The organization claims that the delay won't impact the agency's ability to conduct background checks on federal employees. The NBIB in its final form will rely heavily on in-progress IT support systems per management.

Terry Halvorsen, CIO of the Department of Defense, claims that the IT system will be "more secure, effective, efficient, [and] modern" than the systems that the OPM has been using for IT purposes. The Obama administration announced the creation of the NBIB in January 2016 following a tumultuous year in the OPM.

In 2015, the OPM made headlines for one of the largest data breaches in United States government history. The breach exposed "the background investigation records of current, former, and prospective Federal employees and contractors." The OPM estimated that the breach led to the theft of 21.5 million Social Security numbers as well as data about federal employees and their families. In total, 22.1 million people were likely compromised due to the breach.

With its new IT system, the NBIB aims to be able to keep personnel background check data (as well as other employee or contractor information) more secure. The job of maintaining the IT system and providing security for the NBIB in general has fallen upon the Department of Defense. The DoD is also working on updating the systems that the OPM was using for background checks so that the NBIB can ensure secure screenings and data storage until the new IT backend is finished.

In addition to the security from the DoD, the NBIB is being led by a director with strong security industry leanings. Per the FedTech report, Charles Phalen Jr., the inaugural director of the NBIB, spent 2007 to 2011 working as the Director of Security for the CIA. Since, he's served as the VP of corporate security for Northrop Grumman, a global security firm


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