Six Accused of Falsifying Security Clearance Checks
An April 9, 2009 article in the Washington Post reports that six investigators conducting security-clearance checks for the federal government have been accused of lying to the OPM in the reports they submitted. “The investigators lied about interviews they never conducted because they were overworked, cutting corners, trying to impress their bosses or, in the case of one contractor, seeking to earn more money by racing through the checks.” One investigator admitted he lied in 30 of 67 background investigations. (He’s at least batting under .500)
Since 2007, federal prosecutors have charged six investigators with making false statements. In the past OPM has handled such problems internally, however, OPM wanted to send a message by prosecuting the offenders instead of administrative action and/or firing the employee.
Again, not surprised. I will say this industry has become the most pressure-filled job folks could imagine. I spent 20 years in the military during 5 wars or contigency OPS and had less pressure. There are just times when cases are not timely because we are at the mercy of everyone else’s svhedules. Investigators are pressured with nearly almost unattainable stats. Now, the greedy one’s are not bright. I am not condoning any falsification, but what I am saying this problem will no doubt get worse with the continuing trend we are on. It’s hard to say where this blame lies, but I hope the new DNI gets on-board and takes a closer look. I will not be in this industry too much longer as it has somewhat spiraled out of control. Not sure where the greed lies; with contractors, OPM or with the contract companies. If you are an investigator, you know what I mean–for those of you on the outside, just follow the news stories as this will continue.
I know there are investigators out there who do this but I am tired of seeing these articles about the bad investigators out there. A majority of the government and contractor investigators do a damn good job at conducting investigations. We do the right thing and provide a good quality investigation to OPM and the other agencies. The good ones are getting a bad rap.
BW, our company is pushing the 25 day turn around for field work very hard. We are told 25 days for field work, 5 days for our company to review the work and then 10 days for OPM to review the work before it goes on to the respective agency. We are told the company looses money if we do not hit this 30 day turn around. Many different programs and processes have been developed to help hit this 30 day mark. One being the smart phone mentioned on this blog. I am hoping once the investigation process changes it will be easier to hit this 30 day goal. 25 days to get an investigation out is not a lot of time as you know.
It’s not the case turnaround time–It’s the 40 cases per month they want us to turn. These ACD’s have gotten out of control. The simple fix is to hire more CRA’s.This allows for continuous cycles. I’m convinced a critical part of this success will lie with CRA’s–us inv’s can push out alot of work, but not enough eyes to get these things out. Watch-out for the new microscope we are about to see.
I worked with a 30 day turnaround and as Investigator when the concept was introduced we voiced that falsification would become an issue. For anyone that has worked in the field, the issue of case turnover is a hot button issue. As contractors you have all the responsibilities without any of the muscle to get the information you need. You are at the mercy of uncooperative police departments, contacts and agencies. If OPM wants security clearance to move faster, they need to think about providing contractors with more resources to complete the cases.
Question – why are these being prosecuted in Federal courts? Why wouldn’t the OPM handle disciplinary actions in-house like they’ve done in the past? Politics?
Good question. Let’s wait and see if the Fed side gets a pass again. I do not feel much pity for these folks, but the amount of work expected has become so unrealistic–it has made (Probably) good people make poor decisions. Politics is RIGHT!!!! These folks at the top have no idea what they are doing to their workforce. I can see this leading to an all government workforce, so someone can build their status. Let’s hope it doesn’t, because that side is very inefficient and do not have to produce anything near what we contract folks do. Before any Fed Inv’s chime-in, no, I don’t mean everyone–I know there are some great folks out there.
What happened to the subjects? Did they have to get re-investigated?
All cases that are determined to be falsified are re-worked. A lot of wasted time and money. Our company does not get paid for re-work we have to do because one of our investigators falsified their reports.
I’m not sure what they do now, but in the past they re-investigated every lead conducted by the investigator during the preceeding 6 months.
According to Government talking heads in DHS and OPM, the contract investigators are indeed one of the areas that President Obama wants to dissolve under his “stop relying on federal contractors and bring back jobs under the government umbrella” proposal. A Government run investigation division, possibly falling under Homeland security is in the distant future according to talk around the executive watercoolers. Hopefully, this would help mitigate some of the money that is being wasted.
I wonder if Obama realizes the Federal hiring process takes many, many months and a lot of red tape to get a new employee on board..
I’m beginning to wonder if anybody knows!!!!! We will be starting the new 30 day turnaround soon. Being on the inside of this mess, I can almost assure the process will fail. Hate to be negative, but realism is my gospel. Now, when I say 30 day turnaround, that means we investigators only have 14 days to get our cases investigated, typed and transmitted. I usually carry 20-30 reports at a time and one full SSBI when everything goes perfect takes 3 days to investigate (Providing it is all in my area) and about 4-6 hours to type–can someone please help Congress with the math?
Hopefully this is wrong. First, the only way this could happen is for the govt to rehire us contractors, who hold the experience. Help us if this falls under DHS, which is very disorganized and way too big to manage this. As far as costs go, we contractors cost nearly nothing as many of us are retired military or other fed service and require no benefits. More than half (Probably more) only get paid when they complete work. The govt pays their inv’s GS-11, 12 and 13 pay and are only required to produce about 1/3 of what we do and I’ll tell you not many contractors make that pay–matter of fact very few. But hey, I’ll work for the govt for higher pay and less work 🙂
Also wondering if your Moniker is made up or are you with Politico looking for a story? Just call me curious.
The Washington Post article stated that “Kathy L. Dillaman, associate director of OPM’s federal investigative services division, said the agency handled such problems internally in the past. But officials grew concerned that the number of such infractions was rising with the agency’s workload. . . Dillaman said officials decided to send a stronger message by prosecuting offenders. ‘Candidly, taking administrative action and firing an individual wasn’t stopping or stalling this from happening,’ she said.”
It was mentioned at another blog that no one ever officially hears about disciplinary action taken against investigators, so internal actions (usually termination of employment) taken against “ghostwriters” never had any deterrent effect on others.
Also mentioned at the other blog was the recent OPM job announcement for Criminal Investigators whose duties would include planning and conducting internal investigations including investigations of fraud or misconduct within the personnel security program administered by OPM’s Federal Investigative Services Division.
William, Asmin and Investigator
They should have publicized the firings more as there have been a ton over the years. But, most of the QC sections have become more of an IA Divisions and nobody hears anything. The reinterview program is a very good one, but there is no feedback on how the public rates your work. I think feedback is crucial to the true professional to have a better guide on how to improve–as it stands, if you don’t get called or receive an e-mail, you can assume you are doing OK. To sum it up, more needs to be put on the table for folks to see. I’m really sensing a power struggle soonest. Adding Criminal Inv’s is the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while. So I guess when we code dishonest on the report, the CI’s will charge and investigate the falsification of every subject who lies or let’s say–stretches the truth. What’s good for the goose……
I looked at the CI job posting for OPM and I do no think their primary job function is going to be the internal investigation for falsification of background investigations. In fact that job duty was listed at the end of all of the job duties. I think their primary function is going to be health care fraud investigations.
Not sure of that–seems as if they would have been placed under HHS not OPM, who have nothing to do with healthcare. Guess time will tell.
I am just passing on what I read. Here is the link to the job duties for the OPM CI job.
No reason to doubt you. Hope things are going well for you. I am starting the new 14 day case load, but they have not lessened the caseload. Are you guys changing stat requirements?
We are doing 25 days for field work, 5 days for our people to review and then 10 days so OPM can review our work. The bigwigs want us to do 80% of our cases with in the 25 days. Our current average of completing fieldwork for cases is around 40 days I think.
Fourteen days is impossible if the case is spread out all over the country. You guys will need to hire more people.
I hear ya, now you see what I’ve been talking about. I am one of the more efficient guys in the country and I am going to be hard-pressed under this system. I will say, the majority of the work I have is usually the whole case–I do a ton of PR’s. The one-three item cases I can close in a day and transmit and it’s the full SSBI 20 item cases I get that are the most problem. The biggest problem now is having my name attached to missed CD’s because the other inv’s don’t finish their work on time and the computer does not discriminate between people–I recommend a good running log of your own. Good luck to you and hang on tight as this could be a rough road.
I am with you on that. I already told my TL that I will be maintaining a log of cases with items assigned to me very close to what we call ACD. I am not going to take the hit if it is not my fault the item was not assigned to me in a timely manner. Most the cases I work on are SPINS. The soldiers are coming from Ft. Jackson and lately the investigators there wait until they know the solider is at Ft. Lee because they do not want to do the financial SPIN with 25 delinquent accounts on it. When they do this I have maybe 3 days to get the case done before its ACD. Try to coordinate a time to meet with the soldiers in this time frame and then typing up the case is tough. As you know.
I did a few details down at Ft. Jackson last year. I can tell you that they would assign me about 100 SPINs and I would complete between 50 and 60, having to reschedule the rest to their new locations because they had already graduated and moved on. I don’t know where the breakdown is there but I feel your pain. Things are rocking and rolling now (when it rains it pours). I think the 14 day turnaround is insane. Just wait until summer, all your sources are on rotating vacation schedules and you have to go back to the same place twice to get your coverage. Can’t wait…
In addition to us doing SPINS for individuals who are joining the military we have gotten a notice from OPM that if a SUBJECT tells us their recruiter advised them not to list an issue on their SF-86 we are to get the recruiter’s name, rank, location where SUBJECT was recruited and why the recruiter told the SUBJECT to not list this issue. We are to pass this info on to OPM so the recruiter can be investigated. I pretty sure OPM will not be investigating the recruiter but OPM will pass this info on to the military so they can investigate the claim.
I had not heard this yet but I think it’s a great idea. I would often hear from soldiers that their recruiter told them not to list various issues. If what they are saying is true, this does a disservice to the soldier, as these issues always come back to kick them later on. Should be interesting to see how this works.
Inv and Contract Inv
I got the memo as well. I was a SPIN Inv for 3 years and heard the same from the kids untold amount of times. Even back then, I included the recruiter’s info. Alot of what the young troops are told because of ignorance to the process. The recruiters really have no idea how to be Security Managers and often believe it was a juvenile offense, not required. Most of these kids are in on a Moral Waivers or other types anyway because of things they were involved in.
BW & Contract,
We have been getting a lot more requests by OPM for affidavits to be taken for certain types of cases, primarily RSI cases but some regular SPINs as well. Have either of you noticed more requests for affidavits in your respective areas of the country?
I don’t do as many SPINS, but I have not had to get any affidavits. They could be running a test trial or something. But folks near Army bases do the most SPINS, so I guess it makes sense. RSi’s make sense, but others? Man, I hope we don’t start this again. I venture to say there are not many inv’s left who even took affidavits in the past.
I haven’t had a SPIN in almost a year but I had heard through the grapevine that the affidavits were increasing. Those are FUN!
I found out that we are allowed to type up the affidavits as long as they are in the same format as the affidavit sheets provided. This saves a lot of time and cramped hands. I then just cut and paste the affidavit into the narrative for my ROI and put it in quotation marks.
OPM use to want the affidavits in first person and the ROIs in third person but now they want it all in first person and quotations around the statement in the ROI. the toughest part is just setting up a second appointment with SUBJECT but I am willing to do that instead of writing out a 10 page affidavit
OPM can gather information and affidavits about recruiters encouraging/instructing recruits to lie on an SF86, but unless the OSI, NCIS, and CID are will to pursue such cases, nothing will happen. In the past CID and NCIS refused to do anything on even the most egregious cases. OSI was only a little better. They all claimed that they did not have the resources to pursue such unimportant matters, especially when they were so hard to prove.
You all have got to be kidding me!!! I am currently under investigation just to get a secret clearance. It was easier for me to apply for a mortgage! After I was interviewed by the investigator, I felt like I had been “raped” – I had to be honest and reveal things that even my closest family and friends didn’t know about (past financial difficulties) all just to obtain a clearance to get a better paying job so that I would be able to stay on top of my finances. My past financial difficulties DOES NOT make me a bad person/employee! But then you have these investigators that are not even doing their jobs with honesty and integrity!! WOW!!! What a joke!!!
I never understood why affidavits prepared by contract investigators had to be handwritten. Do you know why?
It was just how we were taught in training. I am very happy I found out they can be typed.
Are you referring to the practice of typing them in the body of your report or typing and printing them on an affidavit form for the Subject to sign?
We use to have to conduct the interview and take notes. Then write up an affidavit (hand written) in first person. Have SUBJECT read over what we wrote and then initial each page of the affidavit and sign the last page of the affidavit. We would then mail the affidavit to OPM. Then we would type up what we wrote out on the affidavit into our ROI but in third person. Transmit the ROI in PIPS.
Now everything is in first person and we just put quotation marks around what we type in our ROI and then transmit it over PIPS. I found out we are allowed to type up the affidavit, print it out, have SUBJECT read, initial and sign the affidavit. The affidavit is then mailed to OPM. I save the typed affidavit on my computer and then just cut and paste it into the ROI.
As I indicated earlier cuts down on time and hand cramps. From what we have been told OPM wants a document that has been signed by the SUBJECT so if SUBJECT appeals their clearance denial or suspension, OPM has documentation that SUBJECT read, agreed to and sign what was written in the affidavit. This is becoming very common with in depth financial SPINS.
I have never understood why we have to do the statement. Makes much more sense for the Subj to write their own and explain their situation and then there could be less chance for rebuttal. I don’t care what we write and they sign; there will always be an opening for them to rebutt.
You are preaching to the choir on that.
Sorry meant that for BW not William.
What, you aren’t gonna use your vast powers to change this? 🙂
That’s an interesting link. I wonder how many (if any) investigators actually go on record. I think it’s one thing for us to talk amongst ourselves regarding workload issues and the job itself but I personally would not be comfortable speaking with anyone associated with the media, etc. regarding these things. I wouldn’t want to put my livelihood in jeopardy, not that I’d have anything bad to say, per se. I would like to see the finished article however.
First, we Investigator’s take no great pleasure in delving into anyone’s personal lives.
With that said, the “Pot Shots” you took at Investigators was quite juvenile. Comparing a mortgage to a clearance makes little sense. We are not here to judge anyone.Instead of whining, write someone who can change policies–this is an advice forum. If you feel the need to vent go to JobVent.com.
Clearances are voluntary, so maybe you should have thought about that before you ask to be cleared.
William, Inv and Contract Inv
Interesting article. I pity the Investigators who will undoubtedly respond thinking there will be anonymity.
Alot needs to change, but spilling your guts to a newspaper–NOT a good idea.
I am sorry you feel like you had been â€œrapedâ€ and had to be honest and own up to some things you may not be proud of. Guess what? That’s pretty much the whole point of the background investigation-we are investigating your background. We are tasked to gather information about you. Since you are only getting a secret clearance you would not have even been spoken to unless there was something in your background of concern.
The interview is a voluntary process. You do not have to participate in it. That is your choice.