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Contractor accused of clearance failure earned more than $1B

Feb. 21, 2014 - 05:32PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was one of thousands of people vetted by USIS for security clearances.
Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was one of thousands of people vetted by USIS for security clearances. (Fort Worth Police Department)

The Office of Personnel Management has paid embattled contractor USIS more than $1.1 billion since fiscal 2011, according to figures released Friday.

The total covers both fieldwork done by the Virginia-based firm in the course of background investigations for security clearance applicants and various support services provided under a separate contract awarded in 2011, OPM spokeswoman Jennifer Dorsey said in an emailed response to questions from Federal Times.

For all of its work for the agency, USIS was paid about $403 million in 2011, $320 million in 2012, $320 million in 2013 and $103 million so far for 2014, Dorsey said. She did not have a breakdown on the amounts paid under each contract.

Earlier this month, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced a halt to USIS’s work on one part of the support contract that puts the firm the position of doing final quality reviews on its own background investigations. Starting Monday, Feb. 24, only OPM employees will handle that job, according to Archuleta.

USIS is now facing a Justice Department civil complaint alleging that the company forwarded at least 665,000 background investigations to OPM from 2008 to 2012 without doing initial quality reviews as required by its contract. Company officials have said that the alleged shortcuts related to a small group of people no longer with the firm a new leadership team is in place and that they are cooperating with the DOJ investigation.

Under the False Claims Act, however, if each of the 665,000 cases is considered a false claim, the company could have to pay to between $3.7 billion and $7.3 billion penalties, Patrick McFarland, the inspector general for OPM, said at a Feb. 11 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

USIS is the largest of the three contractors hired by OPM to conduct clearance-related background checks. At the hearing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., whether the firm is too big to suspend from future business.

“I think they could be suspended and others would take over, but there would be an interim problem area for sure,” McFarland replied. “But I don't know that would be enough to suggest that they shouldn't be suspended.”

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