Federal contract employee reviewed 15,152 security clearances in a month, audit says

R. Jeffrey Smith

Auditors for the office that oversees the approval of all federal security clearances have apparently located the most productive federal contract worker in America.

An unnamed employee at U.S. Investigative Services (known as USIS) — the same private company that processed Edward Snowden's clearance to work at the NSA — managed to review a startling 15,152 clearance cases in a single month during fiscal 2013, according to an Office of Personnel Management inspector general’s report.

USIS is a private firm spun off from the government that does the arduous work of investigating the loyalty and integrity of applicants for sensitive federal jobs. Qualified officials are supposed to review information drawn from background investigations before granting some security clearance.

OPM pays USIS to verify that the right data was assembled into a single package for final review. Figuring a 40-hour work week, the employee cited in the IG report reviewed 1 ½ cases a minute, a pace the OPM’s watchdog called, with some understatement, “abnormal.”

It is not clear if the person still works at USIS, since the company declined to say. But in response to questions, OPM said on June 16 that the person no longer works on the agency's contract. OPM spokeswoman Lindsey S. O’Keefe declined to say however how many clearances USIS is presently processing and where those applicants want to work in the federal government.

The two entities — still bound together by the purchase of "support services" and investigative fieldwork — are essentially in duck-and-cover mode in the wake of a Jan. 22 Justice Department filing that accused USIS of deliberately defrauding the government from March 2008 through at least September 2012, by pretending it conducted quality data reviews that never occurred. The Justice Department said USIS did this as matter of official policy, motivated by greed.

In its response at the time, USIS said the allegations “relate to a small group of individuals over a specific time period” and that it has new leadership and better oversees its workers now. Allegations against the firm attracted particular notice because one of those whose application it processed was Edward Snowden.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.