Background InvestigationsPolygraph

Failing a Polygraph Alone Won't Cost You a Security Clearance

A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst who lost his job and his security clearance in 2009 has reached a settlement. John Dullahan was never informed of the reason for losing his job due to the Pentagon’s decision to invoke a national security clause which allows it to keep the reason for firing private, and eliminates the normal appeals process for fired government employees.

In one of former defense secretary Robert Gates’ last acts before stepping down, he granted Dullahan an appeal, which allowed him to settle with the DIA and formally retire at the end of last month. Dullahan will also receive all back pay and benefits from the time of his termination, $25,000, and attorney’s fees.

Dullahan lost his job and security clearance after supposedly failing three polygraph examinations, but DoD polygraph policy states that failing a polygraph alone is not sufficient to cost someone their job. There must be corroborating evidence or information from other sources or the applicant himself (this is why the post-poly interview is often the most important – and stressful – part of the process)…

Here is the DoD polygraph regulation, including the national security exception used in Dullahan’s case:

C1.1.6.1. The determining authority shall notify the subject, in writing, that, although the investigation that followed the indication of deception during the polygraph examination did not in and of itself provide an independent basis for denial of access, a determination to deny such access to the subject had been made, based upon the finding of the determining authority that access under the circumstances poses an unacceptable risk to the national security. The subject shall also be advised, in the case of a determination made by a Component authority, that the determination may be appealed to the Secretary of Defense. Determinations by the Secretary of Defense are conclusive.

The story would have ended with Dullahan losing his job and his security clearance if Gates hadn’t stepped in and granted the appeal. That appeal has allowed Dullahan to reach his current agreement with the DIA, who still isn’t revealing the details of why Dullahan lost his clearance in the first place.

According to Dullahan’s lawyer, he has already applied for a security clearance with a defense contractor, in pursuit of a new job, and new career, outside of the DIA.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Does the CIA share the same DoD/DIA policy?

    Just curious.

  2. Avatar

    Is Ryan your real name?

  3. Avatar

    IC agencies do not follow this policy at all.

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    Most of the high side IC agencies that use polygraph belong to DOD (NSA, DIA, NRO, NGA) and are required to follow this policy. Of course not everyone follows all of the rules all of the time.

  5. Avatar

    So off topic, sorry –

    Anyone hear USIS is laying off and bringing folks back on as independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits?

    Is this just another rumor or what?

  6. Avatar

    Fed –

    I haven’t heard of any lay offs but they have far more job announcements out there for independent contractors vs. full-time investigators.

    They are also going through massive management restructuring – LOTS of cuts – from the CEO down to the TLs.

  7. Avatar

    Have heard nothing about that but many things that happen in this company are never really communicated whether good or bad. Right now the big news is the realignment of the company. A consultant company was brought in and did a review of the company. They determined it was not being run effectively and efficiently (not a big surprise in my opinion). We are going from 4 business units each with a VP and a total of 22 District Managers (number I was told but could be wrong) to 10 regional areas/districts. Each region will have its own Regional Director. The 4 VPs and the 22 DMs can apply for the RD positions. So at least 16 people are going to lose their job by the end of the year as this is when the RD position is suppose to be implemented. Two additional big moves are that the CEO of USIS was asked to resign as was the CEO of Altegrity, USIS’s parent company. Apparently Altegrity/USIS’s investors, Providence Equity, was not happy with either of them and they were asked to resign. We have also been told more changes are coming so what you said could be one of those changes. I can understand why as it is tough to determine the amount of work OPM is going to provide USIS each month and the necessary manpower needed to cover the work. Right now we have 4 people detailed out of our area down to the Norfolk area because they are overloaded with work. Come January our area could be overloaded with work and we will have to bring those 4 people back and then detail more investigators into our area to cover that workload. If I did not have a family to support I would consider going contractor and working for as many companies as possible. Even doing other background investigation work. In fact I was contacted by a contract company representing Dominion Virginia Power (VA and NC’s main power company) and they asked me if I would be interested in working for them conducting background investigations on new employees of Dominion Virginia Power and its contractors. Yet the position was contract and the contract was set to end in June of 2012 with the possibility of continuing.
    One last thing. I guess the Air Force contract is up for rebid soon as I was contacted by Omniplex asking me to apply for their Air Force investigator position so they can show the client they have enough people to handle the contract. I have heard bad things from multiple sources about how Omniplex treats their background investigators so I am going to pass on that as well.

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    My (non-DOD) IC agency does not follow this policy and I know for a fact that some DOD ones frequently do not, even if they should.

  9. Avatar

    Fed & Investigator,

    I’ve heard rumors that USIS wants to retain a core group of full-time investigators (much smaller than the current full-time work force) and supplement with sub-contractors.

    Frankly, I think USIS will have to do this (and downsize their management staff even further after the current cuts) to continue competing with KeyPoint GS and CACI on the OPM contract; those companies have only one office each in the entire country from which they supervise/oversee all of their OPM work. USIS is only paring down their OPM contract management footprint to ten national offices. USIS has WAY too much overhead and spends WAY too much on detailing, etc.

  10. Avatar

    Thanks for the insight guys! It’s always nice to share info!

  11. Avatar

    I agree Blue’s Clues. USIS is no longer top company on the totem pole with OPM. I think USIS management got big heads thinking CACI and KGS could never do what USIS does. Well they were wrong and now they are paying. We will see what happens in 2012.

  12. Avatar

    I work for USIS. As long as I don’t lose my job, that’s all I can hope for. Our district manager will become a contractor. The other caviet to these changes is that the number of Work Load Leaders will be cut from about 34 or so to 10 as well. In the meantime, all of our TLs, our Work Load Leader, and District Manager are being required to take PTO the final week of this month so that the company does not have to pay them as much should any of them receive a severance package.

    Before this happened, USIS implemented very sudden and tough guidelines on PRT cases which they receive from OPM, up to and including termination for investigators who don’t meed ACDs on these cases. It’s unusual because the company, overall, has apparently never been above 85% on its turnaround rate on PRT cases. Maybe spending money on things like intranet social networking (read TExT) has finally caught up to USIS.

  13. Avatar

    Hi gang,

    Like my new moniker?

  14. Avatar

    BW – You don’t fool us. We ain’t no dummies…

  15. Avatar

    Fed scared “RYAN” away. That is funny…

  16. Avatar

    I was just kidding with Ryan. 🙁

    And BW, love the name!

  17. Avatar

    I left USIS for another OPM Contractor mainly because I was being dooped into working so much overtime at USIS, I had to either leave or continue working 50 hr weeks (only billing for 40 or else I’d get in trouble for not being productive.

    Long story short- it’s not much better here.

    ESI/SPIN/PRSI- 3.5 points
    Source Interview- 1 point
    Record – 0.5 point

    As a level III investigator, I’m required to transmit 21.8 points per 40 hr work week (only exception is holidays, pto, training).

    I thought this seemed attainable, but between all the time I am spending running to UPS to send off manifests, printing out case documents, trying to get people on the phone to schedule appointments, and making “multiple in person and phone attempts on multiple days”, I’m falling short of this requirement to the tune of about 5-6 points per week. However, I haven’t gotten a re-opened case in months. My timeliness rating is 100%.

    Most of my coworkers make their points requirements, but they all openly talk (to each other) about working 10 hrs/week off the clock. Which is illegal, but hey, what are ya gonna do?

    I just wish OPM cared about how much crap our employers put us through. I am so damn stressed.

    Also- just learned today we don’t even have clearances? Good grief… that was the one good thing about this job I thought.

    This is TOO much stress for this amount of money and there’s no professional development/upward mobility in this role except a higher level investigator (producing more reports per week).

    Anybody ever gotten out of this job into something better? Ideas/Exist Strategies?

    I have to say I have a LOT of respect for my fellow BGIs. I’ve never met such a diligent, hard working group of people!

  18. Avatar


    Ryan (Or maybe not Ryan?) is still there, you just can’t see him…SHHH…nobody is supposed to know.

  19. Avatar

    I didn’t quite understand Ryan’s question.

  20. Avatar

    By the way- what the heck is going down at USIS? Sounds like Rome has fallen for the second time.

  21. Avatar

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while. What’s the breakdown of the OPM contract in terms of percentage for each company? How much of the overall contract does USIS have vs KGS, CACI, or others?

  22. Avatar

    Very Special Investigator –

    I’ve asked the same question several times and I’ve never gotten a straight answer. I think it may have something to do with staffing levels/location of staff.

    As of 12-01-2011 only USIS, KGS and CACI are working the OPM contract.

  23. Avatar

    I’m not sure of the exact breakdown of the contract either. However, one of our Team Leaders said USIS lost 6% of the OPM contract. How that 6% was divided amongst CACI and Keypoint was not shared.

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    You know TW my DM and TL have never told us about the new PRT policy. I first read about it on our now defunct Blog. just another example of poor communication in our company.
    On another note I just read the following article on the private side of background investigations. In case some of you don’t know one of the companies in the article, HireRight, is a “sister” company of my company USIS. $28.4 million is a lot of money.

  25. Avatar

    Bad USIS, no doughnut.

  26. Avatar

    Anyone else read the AP story about PFC Bradley Manning? Thoughts?

  27. Avatar

    Someone I know applied for a job at the CIA and was denied a security clearance because she had been on the Birthright trip to Israel. It is only a ten day trip, but they said this raised concerns she might have divided loyalties. I am worried because I am also Jewish and planning to go on Birthright. I mean it’s a free trip who would pass that up? However I do not have divided loyalties, I am 100% loyal to the US. My grandparents were immigrants and I have relatives in many countries including France, Israel, and Hungary, however they are not close relatives. I do not think it will be a problem that I have visited France several times, but will I have trouble obtaining a security clearance if I visit Israel or study there?

  28. Avatar


    That is BS. A few years back, I did a SSBI on a kid with the same issues and was intel. This kid was sharp except for his showing-up in a skirt, everything I found out was stellar. Manning made a personal decision, which was the wrong one and is trying to explain it away. I guess you can’t fault a guy/girl? for trying.

  29. Avatar

    Emily, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Time to think about priorities and careers.

  30. Avatar

    Investigator –

    Would you please post a link to the AP Manning article?

  31. Avatar

    Emily- Fed is right. Stay home if you have a choice. Visiting and studying there are two totally different things, neither of which will make your clearance process smooth. Additionally, you shouldn’t compare France and Israel equally in ‘security’ terms.

  32. Avatar

    Well the realignment process has begun. As of Tuesday about 16 DMs and VPs are in limbo about their jobs. They can apply for a Team Leader position but if they do not get that at the end of January they are done with the company. Such a great way to treat employees who have been here for at least 8 or 9 years. Our DM is out and I have been told by a friend of mine in the NVA area that two TLs up there just quit because of all of the stress. my friend also said there may be investigators who are going to quick as well. I could never go back to NVA to do this job. You don’t have a life if you are working in this job up there.