The contracting firm that handled the background check of a now-famous NSA leaker is under active criminal investigation. On Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) held a hearing on how security clearances are granted.
Nearly 5 million people currently hold a government security clearance. The Office of Personnel Management handles almost all background investigations for security clearances, and relies heavily on outside contractors for background checks.
But following McCaskill's questioning, experts testified that there was no cost-benefit analysis to say that outside contractors were actually cheaper.
"I'm tired of this assumption being made that contractors are cheaper," McCaskill said. "I've been at this for six years, and I guarantee you about half the time I've looked hard, they haven't been cheaper. I just think it's easier."
Approximately 75 percent of all field investigators are contractors. McCaskill said she couldn't comment further on the firm's criminal investigation as it's still ongoing.
McCaskill said the current system, which costs the government a billion dollars a year, is rife with fraud.
The Democratic senator questioned Merton Miller, OPM's Associate Director of investigations. She bristled when he suggested the fund was immune from an audit because its money isn't appropriated.
"Well they were appropriated at some point," McCaskill countered.
"Yes ma'am they were," Miller admitted.
"Because you can't get them unless they were appropriated," McCaskill said. "So you're saying all somebody has to do in government is give some of the money appropriated to them to another agency and presto, whammo, no audit?"
The fund has never been audited, but McCaskill instructed OPM to deliver a cost-benefit analysis on using outside contractors.
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