Background Investigation IT Systems Software Will Now Be Bought Through One Business
Software asset management and purchases for the IT system underpinning security clearance background investigations will be consolidated under a single commercial contractor.
The program created to secure the sensitive information used to conduct background investigations for federal security clearances plans to consolidate all of its IT software purchasing and management under an unnamed Native Hawaiian small business.
The National Background Investigation Services, or NBIS—the IT backbone for the background investigations that assist federal agencies in making security clearance decisions—currently buys software products on an as-needed basis using various contracting methods. However, a new consolidated acquisition method has been approved that will put all that work under a single commercial contractor, according to a partially redacted consolidation memo signed at the end of March.
NBIS officials intend to award the software asset management contract to an 8(a) small business Native Hawaiian Organization “with extensive experience in the software asset management space,” according to a notice posted to SAM.gov. The awardee company’s name was redacted from the consolidation decision memo.
Federal background investigations have gone through many changes since news broke in 2014 that hackers had infiltrated the Office of Personnel Management’s investigations database, exposing highly sensitive information about every person to ever apply for a security clearance to work for the federal government. The breach was estimated to have affected more than 20 million Americans.
After the breach came to light, Congress and the Obama administration deemed it necessary to overhaul the entire process, including by creating the National Background Investigation Bureau, or NBIB, within OPM and the NBIS, which would become the IT program for the investigations system. NBIS was originally established under the Defense Department to take advantage of the Pentagon’s IT systems, with NBIB—including all staff—joining after a 2018 executive order moved all investigations programs under DOD.
NBIS now sits within the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency—formerly the Defense Security Service, which managed background investigations for DOD agencies prior to taking over the entire federal investigations workload in 2019.
Since that time, NBIS has continued to upgrade its IT systems, including incorporating artificial intelligence and supporting the government’s shift to Trusted Workforce 2.0, which includes continuous, real-time monitoring of clearance holders.
As those tech upgrades continue, NBIS officials are looking to centralize the program’s acquisition processes with a single contractor that will manage the program’s software purchases and asset management.
“Currently, NBIS is purchasing a multitude of software products through various vehicles—primarily through other direct costs contract line items under existing DCSA contract vehicles with large business concerns and through OTA,” or other transaction authorities, according to the consolidation determination memo.
In the memo, the contracting officer argues that consolidating into a single acquisition vehicle will reduce acquisition cycle times, enable the government to negotiate better terms on contracts and improve oversight and efficiency.
The memo does not identify any financial benefits to consolidation—despite it being cited as one of two potential justifications on the form. Rather, the contracting officer cites “mission criticality” as the main mitigating factor.
The memo notes 65 agencies currently use the NBIS system to submit background investigation requests, along with industry contractors. It also notes the program is on track to subsume seven additional legacy IT systems by the end of this year.
The memo—and the consolidation strategy—was signed by the contracting officer managing the new contract, with concurrence from the head of the contracting activity, the senior procurement executive and leadership at the Office of Small Business Programs.