Security Clearance Denial

More Revelations Regarding Falsified Security Checks

According to a May 25, 2009 article at, Fifty-three federal and contractor falsified security clearance background investigations since 2005. . . . All of them have either been fired or left their jobs, and six were prosecuted within the last year for criminal misconduct. The investigators worked directly or indirectly for the Federal Investigative Services Division (FISD) of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM chose to prosecute six investigators to send a message to potential offenders that they can face felony charges and jail time, instead of just being fired.

Other current and former investigators blame the problem on crushing workloads and constant pressure from supervisors to meet shorter deadlines for completing investigations. The article quoted Kathy Dillaman, Associate Director of FISD, as saying, There are certainly pressures to perform. The taxpayers deserve that. But this isn;t your job if you can’t handle those pressures.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    My two questions are
    1.) Has Dillaman ever been out doing field work and typing up reports?

    2.) When was the last time that supervisory agent in Tampa was out in the field?

  2. Avatar


    By Kathy Dillaman’s own admission, she has never been an investigator. A FISD investigator reported on another blog that Steve Postle has never been an investigator.

  3. Avatar

    I figured as much.

  4. Avatar

    How can the Associate Director of FISD have never been an investigator? That makes no sense whatsoever. Political appointee?

  5. Avatar

    53 ghostwriters since 2005 is about 11 a year. I only recall about one or two cases a year at DSS, but from 1995 to 2005 DSS only had about 1,250 investigators. OPM has had 6,000 to 7,000 investigators since 2005. So it seems that the percentage of ghostwriters has double.

    Perhaps OPM is just doing a better job of catching them or job pressures have really increased or the character of the workforce has changed. DSS didn’t hire any new investigators from 1995 to 2005 and most of their investigators had been on the job for a long time (the newer ones were RIF’d in the early 1990’s). I recall OPM reported in Dec 2004 that their primary contractor (USIS) had about 2,300 investigators at the time, was hiring 100 new investigators a month, but had a turnover of 70 investigators a month.

  6. Avatar

    The Florida guy is clearly not speaking for the contractors. There is no such thing as holding back work on the contract side, or no money flows-in. I’m guessing the Florida person was authorized to speak on OPM’s behalf, or he would no longer be there. The workload is definitely, at times, insurmountable, but I will never condone folks falsifying–better to walk away.

    Any contractors–can you ever imagine your company calling and saying “i know your’e too busy, so I will hold back work because I don’t want you to feel pressured” That is hilarious and possibly the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while 🙂

  7. Avatar

    I think the problem with the contractor model is the way we’re compensated (I’m not complaining but I can definitely see why there could be problems with the system). We are paid per item or per case. If we are assigned a residence it doesn’t matter if we get our neighbors in one visit or have to go back 12 times to get our neighbors- we are compensated the same… Time is money. The more you produce the more you make.

    Personally, I have a ton of integrity, recognize the importance of my job and would never risk my reputation or my livelihood by doing something as unethical as falsifying or ghost writing. BUT I think there are those that may not feel the same way. Again, time is money. I know of at least one contract investigator that would plug away and turn in tons of work, get paid for that work and then never address any reopens or rework because he had already been paid and couldn’t be bothered to spend the time to do it right. Needless to say he is no longer performing investigations. There are a few other contractors I am familiar with that I question the volume of their output-not my job to be checking but, honestly there is no way for them to be doing a very thorough job on the volume of work they are completing unless something fishy is going on or they are 80 hours per week.

    Any word on the feds beefing up their workforce any time soon?

  8. Avatar

    Contract Investigator:

    Dillaman worked her way up through the ranks of OPM. She doesn’t have a college degree from what I can tell. She claims to have held every job in OPM’s investigative division, except investigator.

    The last 7 directors of DSS were never investigators. The last one with investigative experience was John Donnelly. He was an NIS agent, later deputy director of NIS, and an assistant deputy under secretary at DOD before becoming director of DIS in 1988 and leaving in 1996.

  9. Avatar

    I forgot to mention that the FBI has had at least 2 directors in the past who were never investigators. Of course all FBI directors are presidential appointees. I’m pretty sure Dillaman occupies an SES position so I think her position is considered competitive service, not a political appointee.

  10. Avatar

    While working for the military, it was their responsibility to bestow the security clearance that was required of you. Now that I have worked as a civilian cleared professional I wonder if I actually have a clearance at all. You do not receive any formal documentation of the fact that you have obtained a clearance, but your employer takes all of your very personal information. After you have left a cleared position, you really have nothing that can confirm that you have ever been cleared. This could lead to contractors employing individuals without clearances, because nobody really seems to know – do they? Perhaps there should be some sort of verification document for the employee?

  11. Avatar

    The blind leading the blind. How can anyone, not knowing the day to day, comment on what timelines should be and what is expected? Toss her to USIS as an assistant investigator in a large rural territory with no bases and see if she likes the timeline and regulations at that time.

    Speaking of USIS, there was some talk of them along with OPM going to, what I consider, a form of electronic recording device. Such as a mini notebook that an investigator could use to type/write during the interviews. I think this was in a response to going totally paperless and to increase production.. Anyone hear of this? Is it still a pipe dream or are they thinking about it?

  12. Avatar

    Put her in the field for three months and lets see if she can handle the workload before she speaks against the people who do the real work in the field.

  13. Avatar

    Howard Kasper:
    Everyone in the military applies for a clearance just like civilians and contractors. When you receive a clearance you sign a non-disclosure agreement and get a briefing. When your clearance terminates you sign a debriefing form.

    There are secure online databases that security managers use to instantly verify active clearances and clearance histories of people whose clearances terminated within the past two years or so. The government got rid of paper clearance certificates several years after the Walker spy case in 1985. Walker faked his own clearance certificate while in the Navy.

  14. Avatar

    If you have a clearance as a civilian employee or as a contractor, the process is the same as for a military member. The appropriate security office must “read you on” by having you sign an SF 312. That is your documentation, if you will. You get a copy, when you sign it.

    When you leave a position where you held a clearance, part of the outprocessing involves signing the 312 again, giving you very clear information on your responsibilities not to discuss or disclose any classified material or information you had access to.

    There is no documentation issued to civilians or contractors to verify a clearance was issued. It simply isn’t needed.

    If you are hired by another firm or federal agency where a clearance is required, your servicing security office will contact your former employer and OPM to verify whatever level of clearance was held, and to obtain copies of whatever past investigative reports were prepared to support your clearance.

    If you are (or were) a federal employee, your suitability determination and any clearance you held is documented in your OPF.

  15. Avatar

    Our company’s website posted this story but also commented the reporter who wrote the article spoke with two of our VPs for about an hour regarding our companies commitment to integrity and the auditing and monitoring process our company has to maintain proper integrity. Yet none of this information made it into the article.

    Makes me wonder what else was told to the reporter that he did not put in his article.

  16. Avatar

    After having performed work for more than one OPM contractor, I definitely do see differences in quality control between them. One company will not pay you without a phone number for each source you spoke with. Their QC team is as large as their helpdesk team and they spend their time recontacting sources and record providers to make sure we’re on the up and up.

    Another contractor has never, ever (to my knowledge) cared about any of that. They MAY go through my case notes to pull phone numbers of sources but more likely they go the OPM route of sending out letters based on the addresses of the source in the report. The oversight just isn’t there.

    Needless to say I am happier with the more squared away company-they seem to have it more together overall, are more organized and seem to understand the process better, as well as the purpose of what we’re doing.

  17. Avatar

    Contract Investigator,

    I’m guessing we work for the same company. I know they call a “Ton” of my sources as I run into alot of people over and over and they tell me, so I know they check alot. I think a minimum of about 10% of all source contacts at a guess. Don’t like the new notes e-mail notification though!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Avatar


    They don’t care about what really happens–it’s not good reading. There alot of checks-and-balances, but nobody can possibly check everything.

  19. Avatar

    Hello all: any advice for someone looking for a career opportunity in this field? Is it better to try and go through OPM to gain employment as a background investigator or one of their contractors? Based on some of your commments there appears to be full time investigators and those who work on a contract basis. how does it work? How is USIS affiliated with Federal Investigative Services? Is that one of OPM’s contractors? Sorry for all the questions. Thanks in advance.

  20. Avatar

    Federal Investigative Service is one aspect of OPM. USIS is one of the contractors for OPM. There are FTE for USIS as well as contractors for USIS. There are other contractors for OPM as well including CACI and Kroll now known as KeyPoint Government Solutions. They both have FTEs and contractor as well. My experience is that it is easier to get a job with a contractor of OPM than with OPM directly. Each contractor has its pluses and minuses so look into all of them before chosing one of them to work for.