Background Investigations

What is an "Inherently Governmental" Function?

This week there was a flap over some contractor employees at the State Department looking at passport applications submitted by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain without proper authorization. One of the issues raised was the propriety of using contractor employees in positions where they had access to sensitive personal data. In this case it seems only sensitive personal data they had access to was date and place of birth and social security number.

Consider the vast amount of personal data in the hands of contract background investigators: date and place of birth, social security number, telephone number, address, mother’s maiden name, place of employment, personal identifying information of spouse or cohabitant, comprehensive credit bureau report with complete account numbers, criminal history information, and information about past indiscretions. The same applies to contractor employees working as investigative case controllers and filing clerks.

It’s strange that after 9/11 the U.S. Government chose to replace all contractor security personnel at airports with federal employees, but used contractors to investigate their backgrounds to determine if they were eligible for employment. The government also uses mercenaries to protect government officials. Until 2006 OPM contract investigators were conducting security clearance investigations of other contract investigators and federal investigators. A conflict of interest? You bet. Some federal agencies are still doing this. Surprisingly the adjudication of security clearances is still considered “inherently governmental.”  But the conduct of security clearance investigations is not.

William Henderson

Comment Archive

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    Has anyone researched to see how many of the airport contract security personnel now work for the TSA? I wonder if it was the training that was the problem not the people working in the security positions.

    I really do not think it matters if an individual with a security clearance is a contractor or government employee, if they want to commit a security violation in anyway they are going to do it. Look at Robert Hanson. A high level FBI agent who worked as an agent for a majority of his career and he committed the highest level of treason to date in U.S. history.

    If you are a bad apple you are a bad apple, contractor or government employee.

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    You make a solid point–I am a contract investigator with 20 years military service–Am I not trustowrthy because I am not A GS employess? To me, that is not a valid argument for the issue. I think in time, the bad apples will be weeded out. I will say there is no government agency that can handle this process alone. The big govt operations tend to have way too much red tape.

    Also, I am the other person who mistakenly used your moniker in March. Sorry, I thought I had attached more on the end–my bad.

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    I also need to add:

    The fact that we are calling PSD teams mercenaries has me somewhat puzzled. These folks are pretty well vetted and almost all have served this country through honorable military service. Taking jabs at folks is unproductive. I see no conflicts in a contractor checking on another. I have met many govt OPM investigators. I would gladly stack our skill level against theirs.

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    No worries BW

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    Please advise where it is written that “federal employees” are more knowledgeable,trustworthy and efficient than “contractors”? It seems to me if the “Federal Employees” were all doing their jobs and were being held accountable for productivity,efficiency and effectiveness, there would be no need for “contractors”. Simply stated, one of the reasons that OPM privatized in 1996 and formed USIS was the fact that too many “federal employees” became too complacent in their jobs and had no incentive or motivation to be productive or efficient.I can tell you first hand that working as a “contractor”, if you do not produce, you are not around very long. How many “federal employees” can honestly say that?

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    BW is that you posting again on April 13 2008 at 8:05pm?

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    Investigator, Not me who posted that–I have checked myself and sticking with the new name BW.

    However, whoever posted as Investigator on 13 Apr at 8:05 is dead-on. I’m willing to bet as a contracto investigator, I am probably assigned twice as many(Or more) cases as any Fed OPM Investigator. I will echo that if you don’t produce, you will be gone quickly. As all investigators know, this is a definite produce or get-out job. If the IC’s were gone, the clearance process would take about 4 years.

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    I completely agree with you BW. The production requirements for me are very tough. If a FI does not maintain a constant production and quality standard they are at first given counseling or some form of guidance to help them start producing more and improving their quality. If no improvement is shown with in a one to two month time frame they are terminated.

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    HuMMM!!!!! Sounds awfully familar. I don’t think the average DoD contractor has any idea of the amount of pressure for a contract investigator to produce on a point system, but on top of that squeeze in about 10-20 typed cases per week–all in an expected 40 hr work week. Meanwhile at times doing this after having to drive time about 300-400 (sometimes more) per week. Our mileage time usually equals at least one full shift per week or more, but no change in requirements. So, what is the Fed OPM standard???????????? So everyone out there has an idea, I will close somewhere between 100-200 full cases per quarter. Average that by about what, 60 working days!!!!!!!! Anyone in the business knows that is alot of work. Divide that number into about two-million active cases and you will see this is no easy game we are in. No way to catch-up.