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Search Tags: security clearances
Ten years ago, the federal government was faced with a crisis in managing security clearances: costly delays and backlogs in performing background investigations. The Office of Personnel Management stepped in and tremendous progress clearing the backlog and meeting strict new timelines mandated by Congress. But some critics now 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.
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. An investigation conducted by the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general remains ongoing. OPM says it has confidence in the reforms put in place by the company.
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, known as "ghostwriting," to performing sloppy checks that failed to adhere to OPM's standards.
In the coming months, the federal government will release a detailed plan for implementing more than a dozen recommendations to improve the security clearance process, said Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert. The government's recommendations, which were included in an interagency report published by OMB last month, call for "continuous evaluation" of clearance holders and strengthened oversight of the background-investigation process.
Six months after 34-year-old IT contractor Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard killing 12 people, concerns about missed red flags in his background and gaps in the security clearance process are now turning into action. The Obama administration released the findings of a interagency review of the federal security clearance process Tuesday. Among the 13 recommendations for shoring up the system are continuously evaluating clearance holders rather than relying on infrequent check-ups and improving investigators' access to state and local police records.
Newly-released results of three parallel investigations into last September's Washington Navy Yard shootings point to serious gaps in the government's own security process. But the Navy's review finds the killings could have been prevented if the shooter's employer had disclosed troubling details about his recent behavior.
The Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act would block the Office of Personnel Management from contracting with companies to perform final quality reviews if those same companies are also responsible for conducting initial investigations. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced in early February that, going forward, only federal employees would conduct final quality reviews. The new bill writes Archuleta's decision into law. Otherwise it could be reversed by a future OPM director.
President Barack Obama signed the OPM IG Act into law this week. The law provides the agency's top watchdog with an additional source of funding to conduct audits and investigations of the security-clearance process.
OPM Director Katherine Archuleta called Justice's case an "egregious violation of the public trust." OPM has taken steps to reform and improve the oversight of the security clearance system to prevent future "dumping" of cases.