USIS pushes back against ‘misleading allegations’

Troubled federal contractor, USIS, is fighting back with a public relations campaign to separate what it says is myth and fact.

In a release issued Monday, USIS highlighted five myths and facts about its handling of security clearances, including the recent cyber breach it reported to the Homeland Security Department earlier this summer.

“Since the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) awarded the Field Office Support Services contract to a subsidiary of USIS – US Investigations Services, Professional Services Division, Inc., after a rigorous two-year competition which meticulously followed government procurement procedures, USIS has been the target of inaccurate and misleading public allegations regarding its business and commitment to providing the highest quality service to the government,” USIS said in the release. “This campaign against USIS is now attempting to exploit the recent criminal cyber-attack detected and reported by the company. In light of the impact these inaccurate allegations are having on our 5,700 employees, many of whom have served our country in the military or other government service, it is imperative that USIS set the record straight.”

The company has been under scrutiny since January when the Justice Department filed a civil complaint alleging USIS, which has been the government’s largest contractor for background- investigation services, submitted at least 665,000 background investigations to the Office of Personnel Management that hadn’t been properly reviewed.

OPM decided in February to bring the final quality-review process for background checks back in-house and have them completed by federal employees.

Pressure and focus on USIS increased over the summer as details emerged that the company performed the background checks for both Edward Snowden and Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis. There has been no evidence that USIS did anything wrong in performing those background checks, but the fact it did them added to the criticism and attention.

Then in July, USIS and DHS came under scrutiny from lawmakers when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services awarded the company a $190 million contract. Members of Congress wanted to know if DHS considered USIS’ past performance before it awarded the contract. A month later, USIS alerted DHS it was a victim of a cyber breach, putting 25,000 federal employees at increased risk of identity theft.

Throughout all of this, USIS has maintained it is improving how it processes security clearances and is fixing any problems.

The release is the latest attempt by the company to push back against what USIS considers inaccurate media reports and lawmaker sound bites.

The first myth/fact the company highlighted is that a self-reported cyber attack does not prohibit a government vendor from bidding on future work.

“USIS engaged one of the nation’s foremost forensic investigations firms to assist in the investigation and remediation of this cyber-attack. These experts have concluded that the cyber-attack has been contained. USIS has also implemented significant measures to reinforce the security of its IT systems and already committed millions of dollars to that task,” the company stated. “Throughout this period, USIS has cooperated fully with the government and provided OPM and other federal agencies direct access to its systems, its investigative findings and all evidence gathered during the course of the investigation itself.”

The second myth/fact discussed USIS’ role in the background investigations of Snowden and Alexis.

“According to public statements by OPM, neither the Snowden nor the Alexis background investigations are at issue in the U.S. Department of Justice civil action that was filed against the company last year,” the company stated.

The other myths versus facts USIS focused on included:

  • whether the company, while under investigation by DoJ, should be eligible for federal contracts — USIS said it should be.
  • whether the employees accused of “dumping” security clearance reviews still work for the company — USIS said they do not.
  • whether USIS “negligently” granted security clearances — USIS said no vendor “grants” security clearances, it’s the government’s job to do so.

RELATED STORIES:

Background check firm in hot water for flushing records

OPM brings background investigation reviews in-house

25,000 DHS employees at greater risk of identity theft after hack

Congressmen demand answers from DHS over new USIS contract

Special Report: Questioning Clearances

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