Charles Phalen, director of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), said Sunday in an appearance on Government Matters that his organization has been working with the Defense Department since December 2017 to shift the entirety of its operations over to DoD, long ahead of a coming executive order from President Trump that will make the move official.
Phalen said on August 7 that he supports the President’s decision to move NBIB–currently housed in the Office of Personnel Management–into the Pentagon, a policy that was articulated in the administration’s government reform and reorganization plan issued in June.
But that initiative–that would see all personnel, facilities, assets and workloads of NBIB come under DoD authority–will be formalized through a presidential executive order (EO) still in progress, Phalen said. “The actual green flag on this is going to be an executive order. That’s in process right now. It has not come out, and a lot of the details will be in there,” he said on Sunday.
Still, the steps to make the shift a reality will have come long before the EO’s announcement. NBIB handles about 95 percent of the Federal government’s background investigations, and about 70 percent of those investigations are DoD-related. The FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, enacted in December 2017, tasked DoD with taking back its portion of investigations. Phalen explained that the work to move NBIB into DoD began at that point.
“We’re not waiting for the green flag to drop,” Phalen said. “We have been working very closely with the department ever since the Defense Authorization Act came out back in December, first on the partial shift, now we’re focused completely on the whole piece.”
Earlier this month, Phalen explained that discussions on how to potentially “bifurcate” NBIB were unsuccessful, and said a complete shift to the Pentagon would aid in the goal of being “one team, no speedbumps.”
Phalen flagged two key dates in terms of “phasing” and “sequencing” that will soon come in the process to move NBIB operations.
“The first date will come much sooner in the process, and that is a point when the department will take over responsibility for the program,” he said. “Then there will be a period of time that could be as much as a year, depending on how long it all takes, and that is to get the logistics, the infrastructure in place, the financing situation in place, so that on a date certain, the entire operation shifts from the Office of Personnel Management to the Department of Defense.”
Phalen said that accomplishing the mission has been made “far easier” without worrying about how to bifurcate the organization and “whether we have to create a separate infrastructure.” He added that NBIB has seen an “accelerated downward trend” in the current backlog of background investigations in the past few months.