You’re Fired: Senate Passes New Penalties for Those Who Lie on Their Background Investigation
Senate Passes Bill to Terminate Those Who Falsify Background Investigation Information
On December 15, 2014 the Senate passed the Security Clearance Accountability, Reform, and Enhancement Act and sent it to the House of Representatives for a vote. The bill would require the Office of Personnel Management to take action against anyone who engages in covered misconduct or intentionally attempts to affect the integrity of a background investigation report, including the withholding or providing of false information on the background investigation questionnaire. The applicant or employee would be terminated or placed on administrative leave pending completion of the due process, and if found culpable, be debarred.
The term “covered misconduct” is defined in the bill as:
Misconduct affecting the integrity of a background investigation conducted by or for an agency with investigative authority to conduct background investigations, including–
(A) falsification of any information relating to a background investigation; or
(B) other serious misconduct that compromises the integrity of a background investigation;
What does this mean for Federal job applicants and current Federal employees and contractors? The bottom line is this: should it be determined that they engaged in misconduct that affected the integrity of a background investigation then they are unfit for federal employment or to perform work on a federal contract, will be terminated, and debarred for a period of up to three years. This bill still has to pass the House vote and be approved by the President before it becomes law, but it appears to be well on its way.
It is currently a felony to lie on the questionnaire. Investigators catch people lying and withholding information all the time (“I misunderstood the question”…). Those never ever get prosecuted and most people ultimately get their clearances granted. While I applaud the effort, I’m not sure if it has teeth.
I agree with your contention that it has been overlooked by most agencies in the past, and of course no prosecutor has the time to deal with levying charges for this type of offense. I have seen the Office of the Inspector General take the more egregious cases. This bill, however, will make it a requirement that OPM take the action instead of leaving it up to the agencies, so perhaps feet will be held to the fire.
If this passes, I will be very curious to see if it’s actually implemented or implemented regularly. I think it’s a really great idea, especially if the investigators will be able to advise the subjects that their dishonesty could result in termination and debarment (honestly I think that’s more of a concern than a felony to most people). I just hope Congress gives OPM the funding that will be needed to staff a supplemental program like this.
What if we come clean about a lie on our next re-investigation?