The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) is looking to reduce the number of contract background investigation providers, which is prompting some to wonder if the change could cause investigators to leave the workforce.

Back when the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB) was created to take over the security clearance background investigation program from the beleaguered OPM, four different contractors were hired to help it work through its growing backlog issues. An acquisition further consolidated the number of contract background investigation providers from four to three. In the current re-compete for DCSA’s background investigation service, first published in March and with solicitations due in May, providers were further reduced to leave two contractors in the running.

CACI and Peraton (formerly Keypoint Government Solutions) are speculated to be the recipients of the prime contract, leaving Paragon Systems (parent company Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services) out. Several bid protests filed (and with decisions due in November and December), are asking the government to rethink that decision. DCSA could decide to extend the current contract as an intermediary step – or it could not.

The bid protest and the months of speculation around the decision have left some asking if the bigger problem isn’t in who the contract was awarded to, but if consolidating background investigator capacity is wise at a time when the current pending backlog is said to be increasing.

A History of Background Investigation Contracting

Security clearance background investigations are conducted by a mix of federal and contract background investigators. In the wake of new scrutiny following the Navy Yard Shooting, government background investigations provider USIS was terminated in 2014. USIS had previously conducted 60% of the Office of Personnel Management’s background investigations. Government officials had assumed other providers would be able to take on both the caseload and the investigator workforce, but that was not the case. A number of background investigators fled the industry, resulting in a 17% reduction in the number of investigators in FY 2014.

The number of federal background investigators has largely remained steady, but the number of contractors has fluctuated significantly as first NBIB, then DCSA, worked to eliminate the backlog of pending cases. From a high of nearly 9,000 total background investigators, the last figures reported from DCSA note a total of 5,000 investigators and a 26% reduction year over year.

What Could Consolidation Mean?

It’s unclear what another consolidation could do to an already tightening background investigator workforce. If the two-party contract moves forward, it won’t be the first time security clearance background investigators have had to shift – previously, companies have declined to rebid and left the industry, or in the case of USIS, been forced out. What should be clear is that anticipating all workers remain is unlikely, and at a time when DCSA needs its best investigators in order to implement a truly agile, responsive, and DEIA compliant background investigation process – the focus should be on how to attract and retain the best caliber of investigators, and look for improvements in company culture where investigators are not treated as an integral part of national security.

A quick visit to the ClearanceJobsBlog discussions site, currently the largest forum for both contract and federal investigators to share their thoughts, shows an active thread for the past five months surrounding the topic of the investigation contract rebid. The chatter is informative:

“I would then go apply for unemployment, and do some soul-searching. Do you really want to stay in this industry as a contractor or a 1099? If your company loses the contract it may be a blessing in disguise.

“…it’s hard to navigate the anxiety of not knowing if I will have a job at the end of all this…”

“Who are you with? This is all so stressful.”

“For Paragon investigators, the choices are to stay and ride it out or jump ship. Keep in mind that the work is the work. It will be there if Paragon stays or goes. There will always be a job for a cleared investigator. I would rather stay here as long as possible than make a hasty decision and be miserable. More simply put, I would rather postpone my misery for as long as possible. I’m pretty good with that decision.”



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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer