Industry group fears ID requirement could swamp background investigators

Agency handling the bulk of checks says that proposed change to acquisition rules would have little impact on backlog.

A proposed rule requiring contractors with access to agency information systems and facilities to obtain federal identification credentials could further swamp an already backlogged background investigation process, according to the Information Technology Association of America.

The association said that the proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation amendment, published in the Federal Register in early January, will result in "hundreds of thousands, if not millions," of new background investigations and asked that budgetary impact of the suggested change be given further consideration.

But Kathy Dillaman, associate director of the Federal Investigative Services Division at the Office of Personnel Management, which processes 1.5 million background investigations annually, said she does not expect the new requirement to impact the investigations backlog facing the agency.

The only contractors that will have to receive new security clearances under the policy are those outside the national security arena, and for the most part, they can be processed using an automated electronic investigation, Dillaman said.

"As of today I don't think it's going to be a problem," Dillaman said. "I don't think [ITAA] should have spoken for OPM … we're fine unless the population is much, much larger than anyone expected."

The suggested FAR amendment addresses contractor identification requirements in the August 2004 Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, which mandates, among other things, that contractors and subcontractors with access to agency systems and facilities have background checks in order to receive federal ID badges.

Published by the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council, the FAR amendment would apply to all contracts awarded on or after Oct. 27, 2005, and, by Oct. 27, 2007, to all contracts awarded before that date.

While generally supporting the HSPD-12 requirements, Arlington-Va.-based ITAA, said that the Bush administration "cannot request and the Congress cannot provide sufficient funding and personnel resources" unless the information is made available for the budget process.

ITAA said it believes the proposed FAR change should be deemed a "major rule" and should be subject to further review to arrive at a "reasonable and accurate annual" estimate of associated costs and personnel demands.

OPM and the Office of Management and Budget's work to create efficiencies in the investigative process for the federal ID badges "will be eliminated once the full volume of investigations for government access and identification cards is felt," ITAA stated in March 6 comments on the proposed rule.

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., told Government Executive that a credentialing backlog is still a potential problem and his committee intends to use "legislative leverage" to correct it.

"At least we have OPM in charge at this point and we know who to hold accountable," he said