The security clearance process for the Federal government is about to get a modern look, Federal officials announced during a March 20 webinar hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
By the end of the fiscal year, 115 agencies will be using the new e-app personnel vetting form from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), Trusted Workforce 2.0. Heather Green, director of DCSA’s Vetting Risk Office, said 83 agencies have been through the onboarding process, which features more than 56,000 security clearance cases.
“We are making progress,” said Green. “I can see it; I can feel it.”
Implementation of Trusted Workforce 2.0 – a whole-of-government approach to reform the personnel security process and establish a single vetting system for the Federal government – began in 2018 following extensive planning and interagency coordination.
The first part was to improve the timeliness and bring down the background investigation inventory backlog. Now with a leaner and more effective process, “we have reduced the cost to taxpayers. Now, we’re working on phase two, which involves updating the government’s personnel vetting IT system into a modern tool,” Green added.
The next part of Trusted Workforce 2.0 is implementing a new continuous vetting model for personnel vetting and the secure end-to-end IT to deliver the system. DCSA is taking on the lion’s share of work in the phased approach to delivering Trusted Workforce 2.0.
The National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) will be the backbone of Trusted Workforce 2.0, serving as the secure IT system that will coordinate and connect the systems, interfaces, and databases that support continuous vetting.
Jeff Smith, the program executive officer for NBIS, said starting last March, the agency pressure-tested the system to get it ready for all agencies.
“We incrementally started with one form, iteratively brought one form online – the SF86 – and over the year we brought on all four forms and added pre-fill,” Smith said.
Technology, he added, has often been blamed for a lack of improvement around the security clearance process in the past – but looking to the future, and as NBIS continues to integrate new data streams, technology will be the enabler.
Smith also added that there has been a fundamental and purposeful push to bring industry into case initiation.
Matt Eanes, director of the Performance Accountability Council’s (PAC) Program Management Office (PMO), added that reciprocity and transfer of trust are critical aspects of Trusted Workforce 2.0 – and ones supported in both policy and process.
“The hope is that the app’s integration of information will continue to consolidate trust in the system, and hopefully lead to enhanced reciprocity between agencies as more are onboarded into the new system of record,” Eanes said. “It’s a vetting process that’s more intuitive and insightful – along with more exacting.”
Eanes also said the government is committed to keeping the production lines moving quickly but must be responsive to data that isn’t currently captured and exposed by the systems.
“Sometimes the process slows itself down because we need to look for a small piece of information,” said Eanes.