The largest federal contractor reviewing federal security clearance investigations processed thousands of those reviews in a single month. One single investigator approving more than 15,000 background investigations in one month, according to a recently released Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General report.
The audit uncovered several areas of concern, including procedural concerns about the Personnel Investigation Processing System (PIPS), as well as lack of verification that contractors are conducting reviews, and inadequate training of the reviewers themselves.
The audit fieldwork was conducted over a four-month period in 2013, at OPM’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as several other locations.
Two USIS investigators, specifically, conducted a nearly impossible number of reviews within a month, with one US Investigations Services (USIS) reviewer completing 15,152 background investigation reviews in a month. Many of those within minutes of each other.
Twenty-nine out of 100 reviewers had inadequate training. Twenty-four of the 29 were USIS employees. While many of the shortfalls uncovered in the investigation point to USIS failures, the OIG report noted the need for improved oversight for all federal contractors reviewing security clearance investigations. OPM’s Federal Investigative Services has oversight of the background investigation process.
At the time of the audit FIS had contracts with three companies – USIS, KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI International. In addition to conducting background investigations, USIS had an additional contract with FIS to provide support services, including background investigation reviews. This relationship resulted in contractors reviewing their own work, and USIS reviewers auditing their own company’s performance. This practice was stopped in February by OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. The policy change was one of the most significant to come in the wake of a new push for security clearance reform following the leaks of Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shooting.