Government Contractors (Contract Investigators)
Your journey or some might say, ordeal, begins in your company’s security office. You’ve already finished off your normal paperwork (health insurance forms/401K) from your main HR office. Your Facility Security Officer (FSO) and his /her support staff now take control of processing you for the requisite level of clearance. The FSO will handle all of the security paperwork and initiate contact with the Personnel Security Management Office-Industry (PSMO-I) who in turn will contact OPM’s FISD to request the appropriate level of investigation.
Depending on your background (personal issues) and the level of clearance sought, you may or may not be contacted by an OPM investigator (a federal investigator from FISD or a contract investigator from USIS, CACI, Keypoint, Omniplex, Dyncorp or some other investigative company contracted out by OPM) for an interview. When your case has been completed, it is electronically transferred to PSMO-I for adjudication. PSMO-I is part of the newly created DOD CAF located at Ft. Meade, MD. If PSMO-I is unable to grant your security clearance, they will hand your case off to PSMO-2 for adjudication. PSMO-2 are the Defense Office of Hearings & Appeals (DOHA) adjudicators. They have more authority and control over your security clearance application.
If PSMO-2 denies your clearance, they will issue you an SOR (Statement of Reasons.) You do have the right to appeal DOHA’s decision. Your appeal can be in written form or you can request a court date for a personal appearance before an administrative court judge. DOHA is a sub-agency of DoD’s Defense Legal Services Agency (DLSA.)
Of the approximately 35,000 to 40,000 cases received each year, about 4% of the applicants are sent a “Statement of Reasons” detailing the specific reasons why the clearance is to be denied or revoked.
FISD’s investigative staff of approximately 2,500 make up only a small part of OPM’s total investigative work-force. The majority of OPM investigators come from government contracting firms that provide various security services to the federal government. Usually, there are between 3 to 6 government contract security firms that provide background investigative services to OPM. On the street, OPM’s FISD investigators are known as “federal investigators.” About 25% of FISD workforce is federal staff. About 75% of FISD workforce is contractor staff. Both FISD and contractor personnel use federal investigative standards and OPM's internal guidance to conduct investigations.
FISD investigators are federal investigators for no other reason than the simple fact that they are federal employees. All other investigators are provided by government contracting firms and are known on the street as “contract investigators.” Contract investigators are not federal investigators or federal agents. They are not federal employees. Many, however, were former federal agents or criminal investigators from other federal law-enforcement agencies. They’re retired now and usually working part-time as contract investigators for a little “pocket money” to supplement their government pension. Quite frankly, contract investigators come from anywhere. They’re retired federal employees, retired military personnel and retired local/county/state police officers. They’re college graduates, retired school teachers and change-of-career insurance agents. Even private- investigators try to dabble on the side as contract investigators for OPM.
FISD investigators will carry a badge identical to the one on the right. It will be gold, however. It will say Special Agent, Office of Personnel Management and Federal Investigative Services. Contract investigators carry the same badge but it is not gold, it is silver. On the inside of a Contractor’s credentials, it will indicate that they are a ‘Contract Investigator” for OPM. Contract Investigators, however, introduce themselves as “Special Investigators on behalf of OPM” when conducting fieldwork.
As an applicant for a security clearance, you never know who is going to be assigned to run your case. You may get a federal agent from FISD or a contract investigator. It all depends on the preferences of the requestor of your clearance. Some agencies/departments/organizations require that their clearance investigations be conducted by FISD personnel. Other agencies/departments/organizations don’t care as long as their clearance investigations get done ASAP. Additionally, FISD gets to “cherrypick” through the incoming workload before distributing the rest of the caseload throughout the contractor investigative community.