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OPM Terminates Controversial Background Check Contractor

Falls Church-based USIS had been suspended after breach in computer network.

After months of building pressure, the Office of Personnel Management announced it “is not exercising its option next year with USIS,” the controversial contractor that for years had performed the bulk of background checks for federal security clearances.

“This determination was made by OPM’s contracting officials following a careful and comprehensive review,” an OPM spokeswoman emailed Government Executive on Wednesday. “Since OPM issued a stop work order on Aug. 6, 2014, after a breach in USIS’ computer network, background investigations have been assigned to other available assets, including contractors and federal investigative staff. We expect there to be some impact on timeliness and we are working to minimize delays. The quality and security of our background investigations and data are our priorities. We are working with our customers to address any concerns and we are taking the necessary steps to resume normal operations.”

In response, a USIS spokesman said, “We are deeply disappointed with OPM’s decision, particularly given the excellent work our 3,000 employees have delivered on these contracts. While we disagree with the decision and are reviewing it, we intend to fulfill our obligations to ensure an orderly transition. The company continues to provide high quality service to its many other valued government customers.”

The Falls Church, Va.-based contractor had been facing criticism from lawmakers and others who believe the firm’s ethics troubles should bar it from continued government work. It is facing fraud charges from the Justice Department for allegedly “dumping” 665,000 background check cases without conducting proper reviews. And its policy of awarding bonuses to parent company executives while battling fraud charges has drawn fire.

USIS also drew unflattering publicity during coverage of two major news stories last year, when the facts emerged that the contractor had performed the background checks on National Security Agency contractor-turned leaker Edward Snowden as well as on Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

(Image via Ryan R Fox/Shutterstock.com)