Currently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the National Background Investigations Bureau handle the program, but that could change if President Donald Trump signs the executive order he is expected to, according to Federal News Network, which cited multiple sources.
One defense official told the outlet that the Pentagon has been preparing to take over the program for months, ever since Congress authorized the DoD to take care of its own background checks in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
It is expected that the DoD will form an entirely new security clearance organization once it gets the proper approval from Congress. In the interim, the Pentagon can restructure its existing apparatuses.
A congressional aide told Federal News Network that a Senate meeting will be held in the spring on the topic of security clearances.
The new department will have just over 10,000 employees, according to industry sources who spoke with the outlet. That number will include contract investigators and the roughly 900 employees already doing the job for the DoD.
In late October, McClatchy reported that the number two official in the US Intelligence community, Susan M. Gordon of the Directorate of National Intelligence, said that the government backlog of 600,000 security clearance applications will be halved by the spring. In 2017, the number of people in the security clearance backlog was as high as 740,000.
That year, a number of people were given temporary security clearances in the face of the massive backlog. The hasty remedy, however, backfired dramatically, with a handful of interim clearances doled out to some highly questionable characters, Sputnik News reported at the time.
"I have rapists, pedophiles and people involved in child porn — I have all these things at the interim clearance level, and I'm pulling their clearances on a weekly basis," the head of the Defense Security Service, Daniel Payne, said.
OPM announced that it had been hacked in 2015, with some 21.5 million records stolen containing information on 22.1 million people, leading to the resignations of the the department's director and chief information officer.
Believed to be included in the trove of stolen documents are details of background checks conducted on current, former and prospective employees of the US government, 5.36 million sets of fingerprints and personally identifiable information including addresses, dates of birth, military records and more. According to the Wall Street Journal and other outlets, US government officials believe that Chinese hackers were behind the attack.
Turning over the responsibility of managing such highly sensitive information to the Pentagon may help safeguard it from future breaches. In 2015, the American Federation of Government Employees union said that the hack compromised every employee of the US government.