Government Gremlins

The Fiscal Times recounting of the state of the government’s process for granting security clearances is like taking a trip back in time. It eerily reminds me of industrial America in the 1970s, a time when product quality and design were abysmal. The automobile industry, for example, was notorious for barely finished cars, autos with beer cans stuffed behind dashboards and door panels and beautiful design as embodied in favorites like the Gremlin. As you read this at least grin and remember that private enterprise used to run like this as well.

  • 87 percent of background checks are never fully completed. OPM uses the information it has to make a judgment on whether to approve these checks.
  • There are no uniform guidelines across the government for different levels of clearance. This means that top-secret clearance at one agency means something completely different at another.
  • Within each agency, there are no strict guidelines for determining security clearance.
  • USIS, a private contractor, conducts 65 percent of all U.S. government background checks.
  • USIS, which conducted a background check on Snowden, is now under investigation by OPM’s IG for failing to conduct proper background checks.
  • OPM has already paid USIS $200 million this year.
  • The $1-billion-dollar fund that OPM uses to pay for background checks has never been audited.
  • OPM’s IG said they have not been granted access to documentation on the fund.
  • Miller said the documentation did not exist.
  • Even if it did exist, OPM’s IG said he didn’t have the staff to audit the fund.
  • OPM’s IG was unable to answer the first two questions he was asked without extensive consultation with members of the audience.
  • One question was passed from one witness, then to another, who called someone named Stanley Sims out of the audience to answer it.
  • I didn’t catch Sims’ title, but he did say there are more than 10,000 private facilities in the United States that have security clearance.
  • Eighteen OPM investigators have been convicted of falsifying information contained in investigations they’ve conducted. Eleven work for OPM, while the other seven work for private contractors.
  • Forty other investigators are currently being investigated for falsifying background checks.
  • When asked if there are more than 40, IG McFarland said, “I believe there may be considerably more. I don’t believe we’ve caught it all by any stretch.”
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) asked Miller why OPM so heavily relied on contractors.
  • He answered because they were cheaper than hiring government workers.
  • She asked him for a cost-benefit analysis proving this.
  • He said there is no cost benefit analysis.
  • McCaskill again asked how he knew they were cheaper.
  • Because they are cheaper, Miller said.
  • “I’m tired of this assumption that contractors are cheaper. I just think it’s easier,” McCaskill then said.

Complacency, union domination and bureaucratic management crippled US manufacturing. Competition from overseas killed part of it and forced the rest to reinvent themselves. Unfortunately, there’s no way to introduce that discipline into government.

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