FISD vs. Contract Investigators
In theory, FISD investigators and contract investigators are supposed to be of the same ilk; they are not. They’re supposed to receive the same training; not always. FISD investigators get paid the same every week after 40 hours. Some1099 contract investigators get paid piecemeal: $200 for a Subject Interview; $50 for a Personal Interview; $25 for a Record check. The more contractors send in, the more they get paid. Other contract investigators are salaried employees of the various contracting investigative services firms aligned with the OPM contract. You touched upon quantity, but what about quality? Well, what about it? Only the customers of OPM can answer that question. DC Security Clearance Consultants can answer that question too.
While the majority of all FISD and contract investigators turn out a decent and respectable Report of Investigation (ROI), there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Both OPM’s FISD and OPM contractor firms have had background investigators engaged in something called “ghostwriting.” Ghostwriting is basically fabricating sources of information and writing it up in the ROI. For instance:
- One former federal investigator was forced to resign after it was found out that he/she had plucked random names out of the telephone book and wrote up the “interviews” in his/her official ROI.
- One contract investigator “ran through” the personal subject interview of the clearance applicant in record time. As the investigator was leaving and walking to his/her car, the applicant mentioned that one of his/her neighbors was a FISD investigator at OPM. The contract investigator returned to the applicant’s house for an hour’s worth of additional questioning!
Here are a few more amusing tales of mischief to enjoy that have occurred over the years: (federal investigators are issued a government car, laptop and cell phone to conduct official business only.)
- One federal agent was reprimanded for losing his/her badge & credentials at a Major League Baseball game.
- One federal investigator was reprimanded for using his/her government issued cell phone while he/she partied all weekend. Not too many investigators use their government cell at 2:00am and 3:00am on Saturday & Sundays to conduct “official reference interviews.”
- One federal investigator was suspended for driving his/her government vehicle to church every Sunday.
- Another federal investigator in his/her government issued vehicle pulled over a motorist on the road because the motorist threw a bag of trash out of the window. The investigator flashed his/her badge and made the motorist go back and pick it up. The investigator laughed as he/she regaled his/her fellow investigators with the story. The investigator’s behavior was never found out by management.
- One federal investigator’s interviews were so quick, he/she would leave the government car running with the air conditioner still on while he/she interviewed the neighbor on the doorstep.
- One particular group of federal investigators (both male and female) , while on a temporary work assignment in California, attended the porn industry’s annual convention in Los Angeles. Give ‘em break. They were off-duty. Some of those in attendance are now in management.
- One federal investigator took “unofficial breaks” during the day to pick up and shuttle around his/her kids from school to practices in his/her official government vehicle. He/she doesn’t do this anymore- the kids are grown up!
- One federal investigator flashed his/her badge at a major college football game and bypassed hundreds of people waiting in line for entrance to the game. They thought he/she was part of the event security staff.
- One contract investigator showed up at a company to work a case. He was asked by security for his identification. The contract investigator pulled out 4 different badges! The contract investigator responded, “Which one do you want ?”
- One contract investigator actually conducted a periodic re-investigation personal subject interview of a FISD supervisory agent/investigator. The personal interview lasted 20 minutes. That’s right, 20 minutes. I don’t care who you are, nobody’s background is that “clean” that their personal interview only takes 20 minutes!
OPM’s FISD has in place a system for discreetly monitoring quality control of personnel security investigative cases. This system is used both on FISD’s own investigative staff and that of the contractor investigative staff. When suspicious and possibly fraudulent cases are noticed, FISD investigates discreetly and quietly to ascertain the truth and remedy the situation. Individuals found culpable are subject to employment termination, fine and imprisonment. OPM does not take lightly “ghostwriting” or any other type of fraudulent activity when it comes to processing personnel security investigations. In the past, federal investigators have been fired and government contracting firms that provided background investigative services to OPM have been excluded from future federal contracting activities.
For the most part, whether it’s a FISD investigator or contract investigator who conducts your personal interview for your security clearance, you can expect the following regarding the process: You will be contacted by the investigator who was assigned your case. A time & date for the interview will be arranged. In general, the investigator will review your entire SF-86 (Security Questionnaire) with you. As a period of time most certainly has elapsed since your SF-86 submission and initial investigator contact, any updates, corrections and omissions will be noted and included in your Report of Investigation (ROI.) Additionally, the investigator will proceed to interview your supervisors, co-workers, neighbors and various personal references that you listed on your security paperwork.
When all the investigator field work has been completed, your ROI is electronically transmitted either to DOD CAF, the appropriate military CAF (Central Adjudication Facility) or to the security office of the requesting federal department, agency or organization.
Your security clearance application is now ready for adjudication. Good luck!