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Government sets out plans for security vetting IT platform

A three-year programme to transform the security vetting process for civil servants includes a technology platform due to be rolled out in summer 2021

The government has launched a three-year programme to improve security vetting of public sector employees and ensure vetting “enables the civil service to be an inclusive employer of all talents”.

Key to the programme is a new technology platform aimed at making it “easier for people to apply for clearances”, along with the hope to “simplify and join up the process to make it faster and more consistent”, according to government chief security officer Dominic Fortescue.

“To increase inclusivity and participation in the process, we want to provide a vetting service which reflects how people live their lives in the 21st century, and welcomes applicants from diverse backgrounds to apply for security cleared roles,” Fortescue said.

The platform, which is due to be rolled out in summer 2020, is not the government’s first venture into improving security vetting. In 2015, the government decided to merge the Defence Business Services National Security Vetting (DBS NSV) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Services National Security Vetting (FCOS NSV), aiming to centralise national security vetting.

The UK Security Vetting (UKSV) project, which went live in 2016, aimed to create a single vetting system which would be used across the board.

However, the system struggled, and a National Audit Office report in 2018 found that when the system first went live, 93% of automated checks against the police national computer failed. In 2018, the system had cost £17m each year and was still experiencing “significant speed issues”.

Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the vetting process, originally planned to replace the system by January 2020, but it will now be summer 2021 by the time it is rolled out.

The current programme also includes a new vetting charter, aiming to increase transparency around the process, and a new feedback process where applicants can “offer views on their experience with the process”.

“Over the next three years, we will deliver a faster, more efficient and more effective vetting service to get people into security roles more quickly,” Fortescue said.

“This will include more support for applicants going through vetting for the first time, the ability for clearance holders to move easily between organisations, and closer alignment with HR and recruitment processes.”

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