National Vetting Center
Established pursuant to National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM)-9, Optimizing the Use of Federal Government Information in the Support of the National Vetting Enterprise, the National Vetting Center (NVC) is the next step in the U. S. Government’s maturation of protecting the homeland post 9/11. The NVC is a collaborative, interagency effort to provide a clearer picture of threats to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety posed by individuals seeking to transit our borders or exploit our immigration system. The NVC strengthens, simplifies, and streamlines the complex way that intelligence, law enforcement, and other information is used to inform operational decisions and allow departments and agencies to contribute their unique information, all while ensuring compliance with applicable laws and policies and maintaining robust privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protections.
The U.S. Government has developed several different processes and procedures to evaluate an individual’s suitability for access to the United States or other travel- or immigration-related benefits against information available to the U.S. Government (generally referred to as “vetting”). However, these current processes are often designed for single uses that only leverage portions of potentially relevant data. These processes rely heavily on primarily manual procedures that use separate technical interfaces and are not scalable or adaptable to meet ever-evolving threats. To improve security for the homeland, agencies need a consolidated process that allows for a coordinated review of relevant intelligence and law enforcement information to ensure that immigration and border security decisions are fully informed and accurately implemented by adjudicators consistent with existing authorities. Creating, maintaining, and facilitating the operation of that process is the primary mission of the NVC.
The NVC fills a critical need by improving the manner by which federal officials identify individuals who may present a threat to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety. Over time, the U.S. Government has developed multiple, unconnected processes to bring together threat information already lawfully held by the government about individuals seeking to enter the United States or obtain benefits under our immigration laws. The NVC is centralizing and improving these processes to more efficiently and effectively inform department and agency vetting. Relevant, appropriate information will be accessible in a consolidated and timely manner to the departments and agencies leveraging the NVC’s process and technology.
NVC technology is offered as a service to Adjudicating Agencies and the supporting agencies that support such programs. The NVC does not own or control the information that is used in the vetting process. That data continues to be owned and controlled by the agencies involved in this process and is maintained under their authorities and retention policies.
The NVC technology does not aggregate bulk intelligence information in support of vetting. The NVC’s technology is designed to allow agencies that hold intelligence, law enforcement, and other information to continue to retain ownership, control, and possession of that information, while making it available for vetting. This approach helps to ensure this data remains current and accurate and is handled in accordance with law and policy and in a manner that protects individuals’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.
Will the creation of the NVC change existing responsibilities and authorities that various agencies have to make determinations?
No. The NVC process and technology supports, but does not replace or supersede the adjudications and determinations made by Adjudicating Agencies today. Rather, the NVC helps Adjudicating Agencies make those decisions by ensuring they receive all appropriate intelligence to inform them. Travel, visa, border, and immigration determinations will continue to be made by the departments and agencies currently responsible for those decisions.
In NSPM-9, the President directed the creation of the National Vetting Governance Board to oversee the activities of the NVC with the support of a Legal Working Group and separate Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (PCRCL) Working Group. These working groups are directed in the NSPM to review all activities of the NVC to ensure they comply with applicable law and policy and protect individuals’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and to advise the Board. Additionally, the NVC is supported by dedicated legal counsel and has a dedicated PCRCL Officer who advises the NVC Director on privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties considerations.
NSPM-9 does not provide any new authority for the NVC or any federal department or agency to collect information. The collection and dissemination of data that informs adjudications by departments and agencies through the NVC must be authorized and permitted by existing law and policy, including, with respect to IC elements, Executive Order 12333.
The NVC began supporting its first vetting program, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), on December 12th, 2018. Additional vetting programs will be added in 2019.