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No One Trusts OPM Not to Get Hacked Again

After a hack exposed sensitive employee information, the government is stepping up its protection of its background checks.
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After a catastrophic hack that left the data of millions of government employees exposed, it seems that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) cannot restore trust. Officials announced Friday that the Pentagon will oversee the security of employee data, and a new department will be formed within OPM to oversee background checks.

The new department is titled the National Background Investigations Bureau, the Washington Post reports, and will take over background investigations and security clearances from OPM's Federal Investigative Services.

OPM fell under scrutiny last summer, when it disclosed that it had been the target of a wide-ranging hack. The hackers accessed sensitive information related to the background checks and security clearances of roughly 21.5 million federal employees.

"We think it's a significant enhancement of our ability to modernize IT effectiveness for cybersecurity in this area," Defense Department Under Secretary for Intelligence Marcel Lettre told the Post. "This is a great opportunity to leverage modern cutting edge tools and systems at DoD to implement significant reforms to the background investigation process." The Department of Defense expects to receive a $95 million budget to provide IT support to the National Background Investigations Bureau and OPM.

Reshuffling cybersecurity responsibility to the Department of Defense rather than building its own systems from the ground up is the smart move, OPM claims. "Utilizing what DoD can provide — a large and trained cybersecurity workforce to protect against and respond to cyber intrusions, and a strong focus on national security—is the right step to take, and we are committed to a close partnership with DoD to make this happen," press secretary Samuel Schumach told the Post.

After the breach was revealed, OPM took the extraordinary step of temporarily shutting down its online security clearance application system, asking applicants to fill out their forms—some of them over 100 pages long—on paper, by hand. It seems that some technical assistance wouldn't go amiss.