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New US Background Investigations Bureau to Open

  • VOA News

FILE - The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, pictured in Washington, aims to drastically cut processing time for "top secret" and "secret" clearances.

FILE - The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, pictured in Washington, aims to drastically cut processing time for "top secret" and "secret" clearances.

A new U.S. government bureau opens Monday to strengthen the security clearance process that has suffered from backlogs and a security breach that compromised the information of more than 20 million Americans.

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) will be integrated with the Department of Defense, which will handle network security.

The bureau's first director, Charles Phalen, will take up his post Saturday. He spent 30 years working at the Central Intelligence Agency, including as director of the agency's security, and most recently was the vice president of corporate security for the private security company Northrop Grumman.

Phalen told reporters Thursday that one of his top priorities would be addressing the backlog of U.S. government security clearances.

Officials with the Office of Personnel Management said they aimed to reduce processing time for "top secret" clearances from 170 days to 80 days and for "secret" clearances from 120 days to 40 days.

The new bureau has hired four companies to do field interviews for security clearance investigations, including KeyPoint, a private company whose login credentials were used in the hack that affected more than 20 million federal employees. U.S. officials have said that a KeyPoint contractor's stolen credentials were used by hackers in 2014 in two major government computer breaches.

The NBIB was announced in January to replace the current Federal Investigative Services system, following the hacks of government personnel and security records.

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