Tester, McCaskill, Begich introduce bill to keep security clearance contractors from approving their own work
Senators’ common-sense legislation responds to allegations of conflict of interest
(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) today introduced common-sense legislation that prevents security clearance contractors from reviewing and approving their own background investigations.
The Senators’ legislation comes in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that government contractor U.S. Investigative Services (USIS) approved its own incomplete investigations in order to receive payment from the federal government. USIS is the same contractor that conducted the background checks of Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.
“Letting federal contractors review their own work is like letting the fox guard the henhouse,” said Tester, Chairman of the Subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. “This common-sense bill will put national security ahead of profits, hold federal contractors more accountable, and make our nation safer.”
“It’s indefensible that contractors would ever have the authority to oversee themselves-particularly on work affecting our national security secrets and secure facilities,” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “It’s good news that the Administration has taken swift action to strengthen accountability in the past several months, but we have to do more. This legislation will further boost accountability and remove conflicts of interest by ensuring the same contractor won’t be able to both conduct background checks, and conduct a final review of that same background check process.”
“Glitches in our government security clearance processes are unacceptable and recent tragedies have shown that there is no room for error,” said Begich. “Our bill is a simple fix creating checks and balances on the contractors conducting background investigations by prohibiting the same companies conducting background investigation work from also conducting quality review.”
Due to the controversy over the quality of background check investigations, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta recently announced that her agency – not government contractors – would conduct background check quality reviews. Archuleta’s order could be reversed by a future agency director, which is one reason the Senators introduced their bill.
USIS remains under investigation by the Justice Department for “dumping” incomplete investigations by reviewing them as completed before sending them to OPM. USIS is the largest contractor providing background investigations for the U.S. government.
Tester also recently got his Security Clearance Oversight Reform (SCORE) Act signed into law. The bill allows the Inspector General of OPM to use resources from the agency’s $2 billion Revolving Fund to more thoroughly investigate cases where the integrity of the background check process may have been compromised.