Navy making new moves to reduce background investigation backlog

More than 100,000 sailors, Marines and civilians are still waiting for background investigations. Now the Department of the Navy is trying to do more to speed up the process.

The Navy is creating background investigation hubs that let the government conduct interviews with sailors and Marines onsite rather than requiring them to come to Washington.

The first of those sites is in Tidewater, Virginia, and the second is ready to open up in San Diego. The Navy also created surge locations where investigators conducted interviews for a short period of time in a location.

“To date, surges have proven very successful in reducing the number of backlogged investigations in these areas,” an Aug. 18 release from Vice Adm. Matthew Kohler, the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, stated.

The Navy now is planning on identifying additional locations for permanent hubs and for temporary surge areas. It will notify local commands if they are chosen and the branches will be required to identify a point of contact to provide updates and address concerns.

The commands must make participants “aware of the importance of this initiative and the impact it will have on our cleared force. Commands must ensure subject participation in hub or surge efforts is required,” the statement said.

The Navy created its own Navy Background Investigations Backlog Branch in January to deal with the 85,812 Navy employees still stuck in line and the 33,576 Marine Corps employees still waiting. The National Background Investigations Bureau has a more than 700,000 person backlog.

“The Navy is steadily reducing the number of backlogged investigations through hubs, surges, and other initiatives,” the release stated. “The current Navy background investigation backlog is now a critical Navy readiness issue.  Through efficient hub and surge operations, the Navy, in close cooperation with the NBIB, can reduce the backlog of investigations to a reasonable level in a timely manner.”

The Navy isn’t the only service to take background investigations into its own hands. The Air Force, which had a 79,000 person backlog as of March, is working with NBIB and the Office of Personnel Management to lower its backlog.

Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff, an Air Force spokeswoman, said earlier this year that the Air Force, NBIB and OPM are establishing centralized interview hubs, and prioritizing submissions based on mission needs.

The Air Force will also soon establish video chat interviews for secret level security clearance interviews, especially for airmen in remote locations, overseas or in training.

Atanasoff said the Air Force is using internal resources to support NBIB in completing parts of the security clearance investigations.

“We don’t do the security clearance background checks ourselves; there’s a process through the Office of Personnel Management and the backlog has gone up from 48,000 to 79,000 in the Air Force,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “We are partnering with them and putting in hubs for the interviews. We’ve asked them to change their processes to be able to do interviews over Skype rather than person to person. It’s a major issue for all of the services.”

Read more of the DoD Personnel Notebook.