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Security Clearances Set to Get Even Pricier

As the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB) moves into initial and then full operating capability in the next two years, agencies will see the price of security clearances steadily rise.

Prices for 2017 will be set later this month, according to Jim Onusko who is leading the NBIB transition at the Office of Personnel Management.  

“The cost factor is multi-dimensional. One of the things the NBIB already has been able to do is get the cost cycle proactively in advance to better align with the budgeting process,” Onusko said Sept. 7 at the Intelligence and National Security sponsored by INSA and AFCEA in Washington. “As fiscal 2018 moves forward this winter, we plan to roll that back and actually get the prices out sooner to better align with the budgeting cycles with federal agencies. For fiscal 2019, it will actually be in the summer so next July the fiscal 2019 pricing will be projected as well.”

The 2017 pricing delay is due, in part, to the NBIB’s plan to award a contract to help them address the security clearance backlog more quickly. The backlog has erupted over the past two years and now includes more than 500,000 cases. Onusko said the contract should be awarded soon.

“Developing those pricing protocols are very complicated. You have to look at the risk and cash flow the NBIB will be taking in that regard. The prices also reflect the level of capacity the customers are willing to pay for and put on that equation. The higher the price, the more capacity you can put on so to speak, the more investigative service providers can put on the streets and the timelier those investigations are,” Onusko said. “There is a wide range of prices that are proposed to the federal community. Those are gotten together through official forums with customer agencies and they provide feedback on what their needs are and the timeliness. Certainly, the prices have increased dramatically.”

The price increase, however, may only be temporary. Once the NBIB moves into full operation and invests in technology and big data tools, the cost of security clearances should start to decline over time.

“The thing about growing IT capabilities and such is you have to invest in that before you see the returns,” he said. “I’m not sure the prices will dramatically increase in the near future as a lot of capacity is put on to neutralize this backlog. But for the future, I see where good performance metrics, accountability, this business process reengineering effort to optimize the process and then you incorporate the big data and you minimize the level of shoe leather you put on the street — not eliminate it because there always will be that need — you certainly can see prices stabilize.”

This isn’t the first time agencies faced an increase in the cost of security clearance processing. Back in July 2015, OPM retroactively charged agencies more for security clearance processing to help offset costs of the massive data breach that impacted 21.5 million current and former federal employees and their families. The Defense Department, which has the most employees with security clearances, paid more than $132 million extra in 2015, according to Federal News Radio.

In January, Clearancejobs.com published a chart predicting the increase in costs would range from 18 percent to 118 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Posted in General News

Tags: OPM, Office of Personnel Management, security clearances, NBIB

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