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    DCSA Briefs U.S. Industry Onboarding into New National Background Investigation Services

    DCSA's NBIS Industry Conference

    Photo By Christopher Gillis | MCLEAN, Va. (Oct. 18, 2022) - Jeff Smith, National Background Investigation Services...... read more read more



    Story by John Joyce 

    Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency

    MCLEAN, Va. – Jeff Smith encouraged cleared industry security officers to envision the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) – a unified personnel vetting platform comprising background investigations, adjudications and continuous vetting – in terms of a house under construction.

    The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) NBIS Executive Program Manager shared the analogy describing his NBIS vision to approximately 1,500 industry personnel security leaders and managers attending the 2022 NBIS Industry Conference in person and virtually to discuss industry’s transition into the new personnel security vetting system.

    “Iterative development of your house is no different than iterative development of this system,” said Smith at the Oct. 18 event. “The first concrete, pillars and row of blocks are cross cutting investments that affect the rest of the house. So, if you're doing case initiations, adjudications or continuous vetting - this foundation has been built and laid as a cross cutting element.”

    The initial analysis based on traditional acquisition processes scheduled the complex information technology system for end-to-end personnel vetting to be ready for deployment in 2028. However, DCSA leaders – including the NBIS technical team and the agency’s Adjudications, Continuous Vetting, and Background Investigation teams – would not accept that timeline, proposing a revised blueprint with an ambitious timeline to build the NBIS foundation collaboratively, innovatively and rapidly.

    “We rebaselined that analysis to deliver NBIS in an optimum fashion,” said DCSA Director William Lietzau in his welcoming remarks. “A new program with clear milestones was developed with a finish line to get us there and I can happily say that we're on a good trajectory with NBIS. The way we’re building it is different from other DOD acquisitions. You've heard of Agile software - this is more than Agile software development. This is Agile programmatics, development and onboarding.”

    NBIS is built on Agile development principles that stress flexibility and incremental delivery of capability. It’s designed with a single pane of glass concept that captures its configurability, scalability and cross cutting functionality to all users.

    “This is also Agile deployment because we're actually using a system that hasn't been built yet,” said Lietzau.

    In addition to leveraging proven Agile techniques, NBIS is applying DevSecOps pipeline approaches to software development. By facilitating fast, collaborative, incremental technology releases, these proven methodologies alleviate the need for broad system overhauls and will speed delivery, improve functionality, deliver customizable solutions, and enhance security. In this approach, NBIS users will be able to provide feedback to inform requirement generation and lead to continuous implementation and improvement.

    “NBIS is a holistic system for the U.S. government predicated on a very secure underpinning for cybersecurity,” said Smith, adding that cleared industry is in the process of onboarding into the system with “highly configurable, scalable, multi-tenancy, cross-cutting and consolidated benefits.”

    DCSA is taking a measured and phased approach to move industry partners through a step-by-step process – reviewed thoroughly during the conference – to ensure a better user experience during onboarding.

    Industry onboarding into NBIS is incremental and based on a facility's regional designation as identified in the National Industrial Security System. The incremental approach begins with DCSA’s Western Region, then the agency’s Eastern Region, Central Region, National Access Elsewhere Security Oversight Center and Headquarters, and lastly, the Mid-Atlantic Region.

    “NBIS empowers businesses while reducing the cost overall because it's a unified platform,” Smith told the audience. “Our focus is improved interoperability and a holistic user experience because we're putting all our information in one frame of glass accessible by an adjudicator in our CAS (Consolidated Adjudicative Services), a continuous vetting analyst, or an industry partner as an FSO (facility security officer) submitting cases through the system.”

    At that point, Smith suggested that his audience of industrial security professionals are asking why they should care.

    “The fact that we're putting everything on a single user interface – all data for the entire enterprise in an NBIS central repository,” is a tremendous reason to care, said Smith while responding to his rhetorical question. “You're no longer on seven disparate systems. You never have to put information in this system and wait, wait, wait for business in the mission areas to move data through another system and give an answer or response. It’s all happening inside one unified platform and that is huge - this has never been done.”

    The seven major systems being transformed on a unified platform founded on the underpinning of a robust cyber security foundation will ultimately create a seamless experience in the major mission sets – case initiation, subscript management, continuous vetting, adjudications and background investigations.

    Currently, case initiation – referred to as initiation, review and authorize functionality – is fully operational along with adjudications and various aspects of continuous vetting to support Trusted Workforce 1.5. The objective, according to Smith, is to have all legacy data migrated to NBIS, enabling organizations to perform subject management functionalities and expand DCSA CAS.

    NBIS is the backbone of the Trusted Workforce 2.0 whole-of-government background investigation reform effort overhauling the personnel vetting process by creating one government-wide system that allows reciprocity across organizations. This includes the transition from periodic reinvestigations every five to 10 years to the Continuous Vetting Program, protecting the trusted workforce in real time. To reach that end state by Oct. 1, 2023, DCSA developed two transitional phases — Trusted Workforce 1.25 and Trusted Workforce 1.5.

    “Often I hear,” said Smith, “what’s in it for me, what will it provide, and what's in it?”

    In response to these questions, Smith said that DCSA is aware that corporate and small business facility and personnel security officers are certainly interested in case initiation and subject management.

    “Today, you're going to hear a lot about it,” he said in regards to case initiation. “They're (DCSA NBIS experts) about to bring you across the threshold. Some of you that are here today who will be on the panel later, have actually walked across that threshold. You'll talk about your experiences in the early stages. Actually, it was clunky maybe from your perspective as one of the early adopters from industry. That's fine and that’s what we want to know. We're continuing to develop NBIS with the customer in mind with the influence of the customer in mind so that we get it right.”

    To ensure that DCSA and industry customers get it right, the remainder of the conference comprised DCSA briefings to industry security professionals on NBIS industry onboarding, NBIS capability and training for industry, NBIS Help Desk Support, and a panel discussion that included actions taken by NBIS resulting from industry feedback.

    “Our personnel security mission improved in speed and quality,” said Lietzau. “We could not do the continuous vetting we're doing right now if we did not put in place information technology that didn't exist (to create NBIS). There was some IT on the DOD side that allowed us to start cobbling things together. That's what got everyone in this room into a continuous vetting environment over the last couple of years. That's what drove our sequencing for NBIS. Now, the taxpayers are paying less because we've lowered prices three times and that's a good news story.”

    DCSA assumed operational control and responsibility for NBIS while it was still in development from the Defense Information Systems Agency on Oct. 1, 2020. The legacy background investigation information technology systems replaced by NBIS are being decommissioned in stages through 2023.

    In all, NBIS will replace a suite of legacy background investigation and case management IT systems from the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Manpower Data Center, including Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing, known as e-QIP in addition to the Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission, Mirador, Defense Information System for Security, Position Designation Tool, Personnel Investigations Processing System, and more. With one consolidated system, security managers, investigators, and adjudicators can access case status throughout the lifecycle of a background investigation, enhancing capacity and creating synergies from easier data validation.

    “We need you to partner with us to get NBIS off the ground and completely built much faster than it would have normally been possible using normal acquisition methodology,” Lietzau told the industry audience, emphasizing that their feedback is crucial to perfecting the system moving forward as NBIS enables the Trusted Workforce transition from 1.5 to 2.0.



    Date Taken: 10.21.2022
    Date Posted: 10.20.2022 09:31
    Story ID: 431689
    Location: MD, US

    Web Views: 913
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