Personnel security (PerSec) and background investigation (BI) backlogs can leave federal agencies vulnerable to exploitation. In trying to reduce backlogs, agencies of all sizes face the same challenges: how to manage heavy caseloads and adhere to federal regulations to conduct thorough investigations and issue fair determinations for all candidates. PerSec programs are a perfect fit for case management solutions, which automate processes from intake to investigation to adjudication and reinvestigation.
Traceability and Accountability
A routine PerSec case may enter the spotlight at any moment, whether through an inspector general inquiry, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, legal challenge, or OPM audit. For every case, agencies must be able to demonstrate regulatory compliance. There are federal standards, for example, for suitability and national security reviews. PerSec programs must also adhere to agency-specific guidelines. Staff must always be ready to reproduce the rationale for hiring actions and decisions.
Using a case management solution that maps its workflows to these federal and agency-specific guidelines maximizes efficiency. As a case progresses, tasks are automatically assigned for completion or review, and information is routed as necessary. Worksheets tied to the workflows verify that all steps have been completed and include space for adjudicators to document why and how they reached a determination. Using the worksheets can add another layer of accountability to PerSec programs, especially when configured to require attestation.
Additional workflows for intake/waiver determination may be configured to match agency-specific processes for evaluating employees prior to investigation. For example, an agency may wish to incorporate Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) factors, checklists for reviewing credit reports and OF 306 forms, or internal reviews of hiring documents.
Always-Current OPM Interfaces
Manually exchanging reports with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) consumes valuable days in the vetting cycle. Agencies can reclaim that time by leveraging case management functionality to interface with key OPM systems:
- Electronic Form Delivery: Transmit reports of investigation from OPM to the adjudicating agency. For agencies that previously relied on couriers to deliver completed packages, eDelivery can reduce transmittal from 10 days to 1-3 business days. That saves up to a third of the typical 30-day period allowed by OPM for adjudication.
- 79a Agency Adjudication Report: Export the 79a report of determination status changes to OPM’s PIPS portal. This allows an agency to bulk upload adjudicated investigations. Agencies can report on several hundred adjudications in one easy upload, saving hours per week.
- Clearance Verify Service (CVS) Daily Report and Monthly Recertification: Digitally report on clearance changes and produce a monthly recertification report per OPM’s requirements.
Reliable Tracking and Reporting
Agencies must meet both standard reporting requirements as well as respond to ad hoc inquiries. Instead of enlisting the help of a database analyst or vendor, agencies’ case management solutions often include standard reports that can be automatically generated based on event statuses and other filters. For example, to initiate re-investigations in bulk, the system might generate a list of due or nearly due re-investigations that can be uploaded to the e-QIP ingestion portal. Ad hoc queries can generate reports based on any field or object of interest.
The national spotlight on PerSec breaches and vulnerabilities isn’t likely to dim anytime soon. Meanwhile, additional regulations and oversight are likely. To be current, agencies must be able to add or edit suitability factors, investigation types, adjudication codes and other data points that are automatically cascaded throughout the application, without requiring code changes.
Case management systems that are already purpose-built to streamline federal programs can help address these ever-changing needs. These systems can help agencies of any size automate workflows, interface with OPM, and streamline reporting, reclaiming days or even weeks per candidate in the vetting process.
Meredith Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. In her current role as a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations as well as to create connections between governments and those they serve.