- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Pentagon on Tuesday officially took over the federal background-check system, with a new agency inside the Defense Department now charged with reducing a massive backlog of clearances for employees and contractors.

The newly created Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), which also will take the lead on technological security to ensure sensitive information is protected, marks the fulfillment of an executive order signed by President Trump last April.

In the order, the president said federal background checks will be moved out of the Office of Personnel Management and to the Pentagon.

Roughly 8,000 employees have now been moved from various federal agencies into the Pentagon’s DCSA, defense officials said.

”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,” Charles Phalen Jr., the DCSA’s acting director, said at an event this week marking the agency’s opening.

The federal government has made substantial progress over the past 18 months in reducing the backlog of background investigations. Defense Department officials say there is currently a backlog of about 303,000 security clearance cases — down from a high of 725,000 in April 2018.

Officials said they aim to cut the number to 200,000 by the end of the year. That figure, officials said, represents the “target level” for efficient processing, given the constant stream of new individuals into the system.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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