OPM terminating USIS background-check contract

stylized professionals

The Office of Personnel Management plans to terminate its contract with U.S. Investigative Services.

The Associated Press, which first reported the development, quotes an OPM official saying that "following a careful and comprehensive review," the agency will not renew the contract. A spokeswoman for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, said OPM told Tester that USIS's work could conclude at the end of September.

USIS confirmed that "OPM is declining to exercise its remaining options on USIS' Background Investigation Fieldwork and Background Investigation Support Services contracts that expire on September 30, 2014." In n released statement that was not attributed to a specific individual, the company said it was "deeply disappointed with OPM's decision. While we disagree with the decision and are reviewing it, we intend to fulfill our obligations to ensure an orderly transition."

USIS, which began as a component of OPM that was privatized in 1996, has long conducted a large share of the background checks used to determine security clearances for both federal employees and government contractors. 

The firm was targeted by hackers this summer, and suffered a data breach that may have affected up to 25,000 federal employees. USIS described that incident as having "all the markings of a state-sponsored attack," and maintained that it should not be punished for having "self-detected this cyber-attack and reported it immediately to OPM, to other government agencies and to federal law enforcement authorities." 

That incident, however, came when USIS was already under scrutiny for other alleged problems, and appears to have been the final straw. OPM must now find other contractors and internal staff resources to handle the roughly 21,000 background investigations per month that -- come Oct. 1 -- USIS will no longer be conducting.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of both FCW and GCN, two of the oldest and most influential publications in public-sector IT. Both publications (originally known as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, respectively) are owned by GovExec. Mr. Schneider also serves GovExec's General Manager for Government Technology Brands.

Mr. Schneider previously served as New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company, where he oversaw the online operations of The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, The Hotline and The Almanac of American Politics, among other publications. The founding editor of, Mr. Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Mr. Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.


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