In a continuing series of reports on the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) lack of oversight concerning investigative service contractors, the latest reports paint a bleak picture for OPM’s ability to oversee the quality of work provided by the contractor investigation companies that complete the majority of background investigations for OPM. The report disclosed that federal and internal auditors found a preponderance of evidence that indicated completed investigations were not reviewed before being submitted to OPM. In some instances an impossibly high number of cases were reviewed by the same person in a short period of time, an indicator that they were rubber stamped instead of actually being reviewed for completeness and accuracy.
The Washington D.C. metropolitan area is home to over one million security clearance holders who work for intelligence agencies, military branches, other federal agencies, or are federal contractors. Many of these clearance holders have access to information and systems beyond the capability of the average citizen. According to a Washington Post article, some of these clearance holders have used their special access as a security clearance holder to intimidate, control, or prevent their spouses from reporting domestic violence issues to authorities, or from seeking outside help. These particular clearance holders used their position of power to create feelings of doubt, paranoia, fear, or even guilt in their spouse by downplaying the seriousness of the issues, telling them no one will believe them, threatening bodily harm or even death, or making pleas to the effect that if the spouse sought help it would adversely affect their clearance status.
Professionals from the security clearance industry and Pentagon insiders both agree that when the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) took over responsibility for processing background investigations, the quality of investigations suffered because priority was placed on speed and efficiency in getting the investigations completed. This is the latest topic of discussion in a Federal News Radio’s series on “Questioning Clearances.”
A recent Federal Register report discussed the possibility of using DNA testing as a part of the applicant screening process. DNA testing, it was noted, could be used in the same way fingerprints are currently, and be checked against criminal investigations using DNA evidence.
“The Federal Government is looking into the feasibility of using biometric identifiers other than fingerprints in the security clearance process,” the Pentagon said. It was also quick to point out that any DNA collection would be covered in a separate rule-making (and I’m guessing it would also include a lot of very friendly back and forth with federal employee labor unions, the ACLU, and other interested parties).