The move is seen as a snub to the Office of Personnel Management, the agency at the center of last year’s scandal over one of the worst government data breaches known to the public.
US officials believe a Chinese espionage operation infiltrated OPM’s records accessing information on 21.5 million current and former employment or job applicants. Fingerprint images belonging to some 5.6 million people were stolen.
The Pentagon has been called in to overhaul the federal security clearance system. A new government office, called the National Background Investigations Bureau, will take over the job of running background checks on all federal employees, contractors and others.
The Defense Department will design, build and operate the computer system that houses and processes people’s personal information, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other officials said.
The White House wanted to use ththe Pentagon’s expertise in national security and protecting US secrets.
OPM spokesman Samuel Schumach said that since the hack, the agency has started real-time computer monitoring, installed protections against unknown devices and adopted two-factor authentication, which adds a level of security beyond a single password.
The computer networks that hackers breached last year had been left vulnerable for years without basic cybersecurity protections, its internal watchdog told Congress.
In the new system, the Pentagon will encrypt data where appropriate and consider which information should be kept separate from the rest of the network.
The administration didn’t say when they expecte system to be operational. President Barack Obama planned to ask Congress in his budget next month for $95 million to build the computer system, but officials said development would start using the personnel office’s existing funds.