Where Are We in the DISS to NBIS Transition? What Security Professionals Need to Know

In 2016, the defense contracting industry was taken by storm when the Department of Defense (DoD) announced its plans to create the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system as the replacement solution for clearance background investigations. This was part of the amended Obama administration initiative, Executive Order 13467, to have DoD support the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) by handling IT systems development that supports their processes.

Coincidentally around the same time, in July 2016, DoD had just rolled out the Defense Information System for Security (DISS) — slowly replacing the legacy Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) for clearance determinations. After that, the next significant updates were in September 2019, when the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) officially took over the responsibility of NBIB functions, and in October 2020, when DCSA was put in charge of finalizing the NBIS system. 

From there, many security professionals and compliance managers had to wait and see what was next on the horizon. You see, DoD’s initial plan was to phase out all legacy systems from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) that fed into DISS. Then, NBIS would act as the central hub for storing personnel data, running background checks, vetting clearance candidates, and adjudicating cases.   

Despite the many updates, however, we remain in a holding pattern for the complete NBIS adoption. After DCSA took over the project, they expected all data systems fed into DISS to be fully decommissioned by the start of 2023. Of course, we are already in March 2023, and the transition is not yet finalized. This begs the question that all Facility Security Officers (FSOs) and contractors are asking: “Where are we now?” 

Here we’ll cover the key updates in the DISS to NBIS transition, why it’s delayed, and what we can expect moving forward.

Recent Updates for the NBIS Transition

Regarding the DISS to NBIS transition, it is important to note that there have been no updated announcements as to when DISS will fully sunset. Also, while some users, specifically FSOs, can create and log into the NBIS account, none of the services meant to run on the platform have been activated yet. Since users can’t handle any tasks in the system, FSOs and contractors are still using the National Industrial Security System (NISS) and DISS for clearance management. 

Despite the transition’s stagnant status, DCSA has released various news posts to update all its stakeholders within the last year or so. 

March 17th, 2022: DCSA makes a news post, with a reminder on March 29th, that they will begin transitioning hierarchy data from DISS to NBIS starting April 2022, and contractors should review security management office guidelines to properly consolidate DISS and NISS data for a smooth migration.  

May 6th, 2022: DCSA releases NBIS guidance update recommending FSOs continue managing cleared employees in DISS but verify clearance eligibility of their personnel with security management offices before the data migration into NBIS. 

May 12th, 2022: DCSA makes an NBIS announcement that they will use ServiceNow, an IT and workflow automation design platform, to host the NBIS Onboarding Portal. Once deployed, contractors could easily create an account, log into the NBIS system, and access all migration resources.  

June 29th, 2022: DCSA announces a training update and posts a new link for its central knowledge base of training materials and webinars for the NBIS system. These resources allow FSOs and other stakeholders to preview the platform’s service capabilities and learn best practices before onboarding.     

July 29th, 2022: DCSA releases an onboarding update that NBIS will roll out to contractors in increments based on regional location per information stored in NISS. Relevant organizations would receive notifications roughly two weeks before their onboarding time slots.   

October 26th, 2022: DCSA makes a request for hierarchy and account managers in DISS to check their contact information and ensure it is up-to-date as part of supporting the NBIS transition.    

December 20th, 2022: DCSA releases two transition announcements. The first is an update that NBIS onboarding for the Western Region had officially started in November 2022, and the remaining regions would soon get notified to initiate their processes. The announcement also clarified that even after onboarding, DISS will still serve as the primary functional hub until further notice. The other update was an industry-wide invite to numerous NBIS live onboarding webinars.  

January 25th, 2023: DCSA releases news that NBIS onboarding is officially open for all contracting organizations and that DISS hierarchy and account managers should have received an email notification. Once again, DCSA clarified that the NBIS services are not yet operational, and users must still use DISS for investigations, incident reporting, case tracking, and clearance management.   
February 24th, 2023: In the most recent transition update, DCSA reminds users to continue using DISS for its compliance and clearance services and refrain from doing subject management actions in NBIS. DCSA also indicated its plan to migrate all subject information from DISS into NBIS, which would be finalized on an unannounced date. 

Why is the Transition Delayed?

If you look at most of DCSA’s updates, they’re heavy on onboarding guidance and emphasizing that DISS is still the primary clearance service system. These, however, lack any insight as to why the transition is taking so long. So the quick answer to why NBIS is still not fully operational is we don’t know since DCSA is playing those details close to the chest. 

One, however, can make a few inferences. First, any complete system migration, especially one of this scale and magnitude, usually takes longer than expected. In this case, we aren’t just talking about moving data from one place to another. The capabilities of a finalized NBIS product will revolutionize how contractors handle risk management and security clearance processes. It’ll offer an intuitive, end-to-end solution that streamlines many day-to-day tasks of an FSO. 
We can also look at external circumstances as contributors to the delay. COVID-19, for example, placed tons of roadblocks in our nation’s productivity, especially in that first year. So when the DoD Office of Inspector General released a statement in September 2020 that they would need to terminate the NBIS audit indefinitely, we could only assume the rest of the project would be held until the identity management and security controls were validated. 

What Can Security Professionals Expect Moving Forward?

With the most recent updates that onboarding is available to contracting organizations in all regions and the NBIS completion date is still to be determined, we can only guess what’s next. In the meantime, security professionals should continue to monitor the DCSA updates, utilize their resources, and follow their guidance for data preparation. 

At some point, hopefully, in the next few months or so, there will be an announcement stating NBIS is operational. Once deployed, however, we can’t say whether it’ll be only a few modules or the entire service arsenal. Plus, after the system goes live, there’ll likely be a plethora of platform configuration and access control requirements for each service before contractors can get total usage.    

For now, all you can do is prepare your data and cleared personnel to ensure the migration goes as smoothly as possible when the time comes. The transition has already been long enough; no need to delay it further with things you can control today.   

Stay Current on Compliance and Security Clearance Updates with MathCraft

Rest assured, MathCraft is dedicated to staying up-to-date on the DISS-to-NBIS transition. Monitoring the situation and updates closely, our team is well ahead of any changes that may come. We’ll be the first to know when the DISS sunset date gets announced and ensure your technology stack aligns with facility security needs and any updated compliance requirements. 

In the meantime, we will continue to offer our suite of software solutions for defense contractors to automate and stay better organized. FSOs can handle everything from visitor management to audit reporting to cleared personnel oversight in our products. 
Contact us to learn how our industrial-security management software helps contractors simplify their day-to-day workflows through self-service tools, manage their sensitive data, and oversee facility and personnel security across their entire operation.