Reform

New Agency Provides Personnel Vetting, Technology Protection

Oct. 1, 2019 | BY David Vergun

Officials unfurled the flag of the new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency yesterday during a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, one day before the agency officially opened for business.

Cynthia McGovern, deputy chief of DCSA communications, said the new agency's responsibilities include:

  • Conducting background investigations for 95% of the federal government, including military and civilian personnel. This includes 105 departments and agencies, as well as industry personnel under the National Industrial Security Program.
  • Providing oversight to about 12,500 cleared companies under the NISP to ensure sensitive and classified government information and technologies entrusted to persons with government clearance are properly protected.
    A service member\s hands on top of a laptop computer keyboard.
    Computer Clicks
    A service member works on a laptop in North Little Rock, Ark., April 29, 2014. The new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency will conduct background investigations for 95% of the federal government, including military and civilian personnel, and will also provide critical technology protection.
    Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Kelvin Green
    VIRIN: 140429-A-QU728-425
  • Securing the private industries that have received government clearance against attack and compromise.
  • Serving as the premier provider of security education, training, certification and professionalization for the federal government, industry and allied partners.
  • Identifying and rendering harmless foreign intelligence threats to the federal government's trusted workforce and critical technologies.

About 8,000 people from the Defense Security Service, National Background Investigations Bureau and the Consolidated Adjudications Facility merged to form the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

Four people, including two in uniform, unfurl a turquoise flag trimmed in gold fringe.
Flag Presentation
Kari A. Bingen, deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, and others, unfurl the colors of the newly created Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, Sept. 30, 2019, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps inTriangle, Virginia. The new agency officially opens its doors on Oct. 1, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 190930-D-WA993-0038

''Merging the components into one organization will allow us to execute our two core missions: personnel vetting and critical technology protection, underpinned by counterintelligence and training,'' said Charles Phalen Jr., acting director of DCSA.

Transition teams have been working closely together to prepare for this merger, said Joseph Kernan, undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Their efforts have enabled the transfer of mission, personnel, resources and assets to the Defense Department in a transparent and seamless way.

''This merger advances National Defense Strategy objectives to enhance our security environment and maintain lethality by protection critical defense information from theft or disclosure,'' he added.

Woman speaks into a microphone at a lecturn.
New Agency Rollout
Margaret Weichert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, speaks about the creation of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, Sept. 30, 2019, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 190930-D-WA993-0012

Margaret Weichert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said one of her duties is leading the Performance Advisory Council for Security, Suitability and Credentialing. That group oversees the entire executive branch, ensuring that people who are capable of achieving the federal government's mission of are in place.

''We know this mission has had challenges,'' she said. ''We know that insider threats may be the largest threat we face as a federal government; yet we can't slow down our mission.''

In April 2018, there was a backlog of 725,000 security clearance cases, and it was taking years to get security clearances approved, she said. Today, it's around 303,000, and by the end of the year, it should be around 200,000 — which Weichert said is the target level for efficient processing.

The nature of background investigations is also changing. Weichert said that instead of a periodic checklist, there will be continuous monitoring. This will make it easier to pinpoint problem areas, she said.

Woman stands behind a lecturn; to her right is a table with the emblems of four agencies.
DCSA Remarks
Kari A. Bingen, deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, speaks about the creation of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, Sept. 30, 2019, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 190930-D-WA993-0069

Kari A. Bingen, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said the organizational restructuring has been a positive. ''We have a unique opportunity for unparalleled integration that will streamline our security clearance program and help maintain our military advantage during a time of unprecedented threats to our people, technology and industrial base,'' she said.

The new agency's headquarters is in Quantico, Virginia, but it has field offices throughout the U.S.