Background Checks

Remember Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who disclosed thousands of classified documents and then fled to Russia?  His background was checked by a company known as USIS (U.S. Investigations Services).  USIS is the same outfit that did the background check on Aaron Alexis.  If you’ll recall, he’s the gunman who killed 12 people and then himself at the Washington Navy Yard last year.

It was just announced that the same company, USIS, just got another government contract for $190 million dollars from the Department of Homeland Security – of all agencies – to help them manage the country’s immigration system, according to the Wall Street Journal.

How could that happen, you ask?  According to an article by Jake Miller of CBS News, “The contract…lasts five years and allows USIS to provide administrative support to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees legal immigration to America.

Regulations require government agencies to award contracts to the lowest available bidder, unless the company entering the bid has been explicitly barred from receiving federal contracts. In this case, the lowest bidder was USIS, so the firm was awarded the contract despite concerns about the reliability of its work.  “By law and policy, we have to go to the lowest bidder,” explained a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Despite being accused of fraud by the Justice Department for submitting over a half-million incomplete background checks, in addition to their inadequate checking of Snowden and Alexis, USIS was still awarded the contract because they were the lowest bidder!

In most bidding situations with which I’m familiar, contracts are awarded to the lowest and best bidder!  When it comes to hiring people, going with the cheapest provider clearly isn’t always the best option available.  In the background checking business, awarding a multi-million dollar contract to the lowest bidder reminds me of the old saying, “When you buy something cheap – that’s what you get.”