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4:48 am, October 21, 2014

Questioning Clearances

The NSA leak scandal, the Navy Yard shooting and allegations of fraud against the federal government's largest provider of background investigations thrust the security clearance process into the spotlight recently. But 10 years ago, the federal government was faced with a security-clearance crisis of a different sort. Because of 9/11 and the military buildup in Iraq and Afghanistan, a backlog had built up and it was taking as long as 18 months to complete a single investigation. In the years since then, the Office of Personnel Management has taken control of the Defense Department's background investigations, clearing the backlog and meeting strict new timelines mandated by Congress. But critics worry too much focus has been put on speed in the process and not enough attention has been given to quality. In our special report, Questioning Clearances, Federal News Radio examines why efforts to measure the quality of background investigations have stalled, the government's response to allegations of widespread fraud by the background-check firm, USIS, and why some experts think it's time for the Pentagon to retake control of security-clearance investigations.

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Part 1: Fraud case against USIS moved to DC court

Less than two weeks ago, a federal judge approved the transfer of the case alleging USIS with improperly conducting thousands of background-check reviews to Washington, D.C. In the first part of our special report, we re-examine the allegations of fraud lobbed against the company by the Justice Department as well as the Office of Personnel Management's response to reforms the company says it's put in place since the investigation came to light.

Wednesday - 05/07/2014, 03:28pm EDT

Part 2: OPM's crackdown on background check fraud leads to jail time -- for some

Since 2008, the Office of Personnel Management has been on a crusade to root out falsification in background investigations using the courts. Nearly two dozen background investigators for either OPM or one of its contractors have been criminally prosecuted for misconduct ranging from outright falsifying reports to performing sloppy checks that failed to adhere to OPM's standards.

Friday - 05/09/2014, 02:00am EDT

Part 3: Concerns over quality continue to plague OPM's background investigations

Is there too much of a focus on speed in the Office of Personnel Management's security-clearance investigation process? In our special report, Questioning Clearances, Federal News Radio examines why efforts to measure the quality of background investigations conducted by OPM have stalled even as the agency has made tremendous progress speeding up the process.

Wednesday - 05/14/2014, 02:00am EDT

Part 4: Feds fast-tracking new system for keeping tabs on cleared personnel

In Part 4 of the special report, Questioning Clearances, Federal News Radio examines the government's plan to use new technology to keep better tabs on cleared personnel on a near, real-time basis. But some experts wonder whether such a plan could be implemented successfully in the swift timelines sought by the government.

Sunday - 05/18/2014, 08:44am EDT
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Column: Fixing the security clearance mess starts with bringing background investigations back in house

Matthew Baum, a former investigator in OPM's now-defunct Office of Federal Investigations, says politics and privatization went too far by outsourcing background investigations.

Tuesday - 05/20/2014, 01:17pm EDT