Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

The Era of Security Clearance Self-Review Could Be Permanently Over

ARCHIVES
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana Charles Dharapak/AP File Photo

Fallout continues from last September’s fatal shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, with a prime federal contractor, U.S. Investigative Services (USIS), emerging seriously but not irreparably scathed.

The Falls Church, Va.-based company, which conducts about two-thirds of federal background checks on private contractors and has been charged with fraud by the Justice Department for submitting incomplete background checks, would no longer be able to review its own work under a Senate bill introduced Thursday. 

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., joined with Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, to introduce the Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act. “Letting federal contractors review their own work is like letting the fox guard the henhouse,” said Tester, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, in a statement. “This common-sense bill will put national security ahead of profits, hold federal contractors more accountable, and make our nation safer.” 

Added Begich: “Glitches in our government security clearance processes are unacceptable and recent tragedies have shown that there is no room for error. Our bill is a simple fix creating checks and balances on the contractors conducting background investigations by prohibiting the same companies conducting background investigation work from also conducting quality review.”

The bill would put into law a policy announced in early February by Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta requiring all final reviews of background checks to be performed by OPM.

Tester’s earlier Security Clearance Oversight Reform (SCORE) Act was signed into law on Feb. 12 by President Obama and gives financial resources to the inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management to probe questionable contractors’ performance on background checks. 

USIS, which remains under investigation and has reshuffled its leadership, was also criticized by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, which notes that USIS is facing an unfair labor practices class action by former employees.

Despite its legal challenges, the company has been awarded more than $142 million in contracts so far this fiscal year, POGO investigator Neil Gordon confirmed on USAspending.gov. “The uncertainty that hangs over USIS shows us once again the downside of the government’s over-reliance on contractors,” he wrote, questioning why agencies don’t hasten to invoke the suspension and debarment tool against irresponsible vendors. “In short,” Gordon wrote, “the government figured ‘better the devil you know’ and decided to stay with USIS, which has pledged to turn over a new leaf.”

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.