Friday, July 20, 2018

How Good Are Background Investigations for Security Clearances?

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) - part of OPM (Office of Personnel Management) provides background investigations for eligibility for access to classified information; eligibility to hold a sensitive position; suitability or fitness for government employment; fitness to perform work for or on behalf of Government as a contractor employee; and more.

NBIB has a staff of more than 9,900 federal and contract employees. Think of that. That number is more than double the number of contract auditors. Last fiscal year, according to the Justice Department, NBIB processed more than 2.5 million background investigations. That works out to more than 250 investigations per employee. That works out to an average of more than one investigation per day if the employee never took any vacation, sick leave or holidays. Is that even possible? Seems like NBIB employees might be overworked. Perhaps they are.

The Justice Department just announced a guilty plea by a background investigator who did work under contract for OPM. This contract worker falsified work on background investigations of federal employees and contractors. In 2014 and 2015, this investigator falsified information in more than two dozen "Reports of Investigations". She represented that she had interviewed a source or reviewed a rcord regarding the subject of the background investigation when in fact, she had not conducted the interview or obtained the records of interest. Her reports were utilized and relied upon by various agencies requesting the background investigations to determine whether the subjects were suitable for positions having access to classified information, for positions impacting national security, for receiving or retaining security clearances, or for positions of public trust.

The Government, of course, had to reopen those investigations and spent about $190 thousand to re-investigate. The Justice Department claims that OPM has "a robust integrity assurance program which utilizes a variety of methods to ensure the accuracy of reported information and that the falsification of investigative case work by this investigator was detected through the program. The Justice Department noted that since 2008, 24 other background investigators have been convicted of charges involving  false representations.

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