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Clearance investigations need tighter control, IG says

Jun. 13, 2014 - 03:12PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
(Getty Images/Comstock Images)

The Office of Personnel Management needs to strengthen its oversight of background investigation contractors and make sure background check reviews are being completed, according to a new report released June 4 by the OPM inspector general.

U.S. Investigations Services, a company that performs background checks for the government, is currently facing charges for allegedly taking shortcuts on background checks. One background check reviewer at USIS claimed to have completed 15,152 case reviews over the course of one month, according to the report, while contractors were not conducting reviews on some automated reports.

An administration report released March 18 also called for reforming the security clearance process. Too many federal employees and contractors have security clearances and the clearance process is fraught with critical vulnerabilities, according to the March report.

USIS as well as KGS were unable to provide documentation that 29 out of 100 reviewers singled out by the inspector general met training requirements, according to the report.

Reports of Investigations — Completed background investigations — were being released without review. All completed investigations are supposed to be reviewed by a person, generally a contractor, before being marked “complete” and forwarded to OPM. However, an “auto-release” function in FIS’s computer system forwards the ROI to OPM if it is not reviewed within 30 days.

OPM agreed in the report it needed to place better checks on some of the automated review processes and put into place procedures to make sure contractors are properly reviewing all background checks.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement the report details the latest in management failures that threaten the integrity of the background check and security clearance systems.

“The security of this nation depends on trustworthy and thorough background investigations. Cheating the system and granting security clearances without proper review is not only criminal, it endangers the safety of every American,” Tester said.

Tester, D-Mont., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, introduced the Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act Feb. 27, which would make permanent a recent OPM decision to conduct the background check reviews itself.

“We need reform and we need it now,” Tester said.

Related: More about the reform bill .

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