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DISA begins deploying technology to modernize security clearance investigations

The Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) program office released its first set of capabilities (release 1.0) in October, and is preparing to deploy release 1.5 at the end of December.

A group of approximately 1,000 individuals undergoing security investigation are serving as early adopters of NBIS, an information technology system that will eventually be used throughout the federal government to conduct suitability, security, and credentialing background investigations.

Heidi Cotter, the NBIS program manager, explained DISA is using the agile development methodology to continuously deliver capability and modernize the background investigation process.

“We’ll be releasing new capabilities approximately every three months,” she said.

The NBIS program encapsulates DISA’s effort to support the government-wide security clearance modernization effort known as “Trusted Workforce 2.0.” NBIS will include enhanced capabilities that will support end-to-end vetting of federal civilian and military personnel, as well as contractors who support government missions.

“These capability releases are important steps to help the federal government realize its Trusted Workforce 2.0 initiative,” said Cotter. “We look forward to building upon our success and lessons learned from NBIS release 1.0 and 1.5 to implement future releases.”

The most noteworthy capability in the initial release is a web-based tool called eApp, which stands for “electronic application.” Security personnel and individuals undergoing a background investigation use it to request and submit background investigations.

eApp’s user-friendly format and built-in form validation feature improve the quality of investigative questionnaires. The eAPP will eventually replace the current Electronic Questionnaire Investigation Processing (e-QIP) tool, said Cotter.  

Release 1.5 will add an interface that enables existing background investigation systems to talk to each other and to eApp. It will also include a position designation tool, which  assists security professionals in establishing the sensitivity level of an applicant’s position, then the tool determines the appropriate investigation level.

“DISA plans to deliver capabilities incrementally, and to gradually expand the early adopter group size,” she said. Capabilities will initially focus on support for Tier 1 background suitability/credentialing investigations – positions classified as non-sensitive – and later add support for Tiers 2-5, which cover positions designated as public trust through critical sensitive and special sensitive (secret and top secret level).

“We look forward to delivering a comprehensive capability that will modernize the entire background investigation system that can support not only the DOD but also all other federal agencies,” Cotter said.

For more information, contact the NBIS Program Management Office at



Posted December 18, 2018