The Office of Personnel Management on Thursday tightened its control of the governmentwide background check process that is performed primarily by contractors.
The move comes two weeks after the Justice Department officially charged the Falls Church-Va.,-based contractor USIS, the company that performed the background checks on fired National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.
“Today, I have directed that the background investigations quality review process conducted by OPM be fully federalized,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta in a statement. “Effective February 24, only federal employees will be conducting the final quality review before the investigative product is sent to the agency for review and adjudication.”
The agency’s ongoing review of background checks, she said, makes it “clear that the overriding performance criteria must be quality. This decision acts as an internal quality control preventing any contractor from performing the final quality review of its own work.”
Archuleta added that she will work with OPM’s inspector general, employees and other partners to further improve the process, which must balance national security risks against costs and fairness to job applicants.
Legislation to allow OPM to use its revolving fund to audit and probe contractors performing background checks has passed both the House and Senate, but is awaiting reconciliation in conference.