Background Investigations

OPM Investigation Billing Rates are a Mystery

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the latest notice for their billing rates for background investigations aligned with the newly implemented 5 Tier background investigation system they incorporated late last year. How they come up with the rates for each type of investigation is a mystery and requires hiring a CPA to decipher.  Here is an example of what they now charge for some of their products:

Standard Tier 2 investigation used for moderate Public Trust positions = $1,423

Priority Tier 2 investigation = $1,531

Standard Tier 3 investigation used to grant Secret clearances = $595

Standard Tier 5 investigation used for Top Secret clearances = $5,188

Priority Tier 5 investigation = $5,696

In simpler times, only national security investigations had the option of two different price schedules, either standard or priority processing. Now, Public Trust investigations too have the standard and priority options. Additionally perplexing, apparently no priority processing is available for Secret clearance investigations. This really doesn’t make sense and you gotta ask yourself, if we have all of these additional public trust investigations competing for priority then won’t that result in longer processing time for all national security investigations?  Even more confusing are the different pricing hits incurred when issues are discovered that result in additional checks and coverage. Oh, and if the applicant decides to part ways after the investigation is already submitted to OPM and it gets cancelled within the first 5 days, the agency still has to pay almost half the cost of a full investigation.

It seems to me that the investigations process has become even more arduous and convoluted since the supposed OPM reforms instituted after the USIS debacle last year. In reality, when I look at the final investigative product we get now versus what we got 10 years ago at half the price, I wonder how the heck the Federal Government got so off track from what is really important. It used to be that only those who were shown to be trustworthy, honest, and reliable were granted security clearances after a thorough investigation was completed. Now all we do is shuffle paperwork back and forth and grant someone a clearance, and then make agencies pay more than the paper the ROI is printed on is worth.