- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The federal government’s largest background check company was fired by the Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday after a spate of bad news, including a Justice Department lawsuit, a cyberattack and congressional scrutiny over its vetting of Edward Snowden.

The Virginia-based USIS said OPM notified the company that the agency was declining to exercise its remaining options on a contract for background investigations fieldwork and support services.

“We are deeply disappointed with OPM’s decision, particularly given the excellent work our 3,000 employees have delivered on these contracts,” the company said in a statement late Tuesday.

“While we disagree with the decision and are reviewing it, we intend to fulfill our obligations to ensure an orderly transition.”

The company also said it continued to “provide high quality service” to other government agencies.

OPM announced its decision a day after USIS issued a lengthy and detailed public defense in the face of increasing calls for the government to cut ties with the company.

Lawmakers from both parties have raised questions about the timing of a border security contract this year worth up to $190 million awarded to USIS‘ professional services division, which the company says is separate from its background investigations arm.

The contract was awarded months after the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit accusing USIS of collecting millions of dollars in bonuses while falsely certifying that hundreds of thousands of unfinished background investigations had been completed.

The company has sought to distance itself from those accusations, saying nobody currently with the company has ties to any of the accusations outlined in the government’s lawsuit.

Under federal contracting law, past scandals don’t necessarily mean future contracts are in jeopardy. Contractors need to show only that they are “presently responsible.”

Nonetheless, the company’s woes worsened last month when it was hit with a cyberattack. USIS has continued fending off questions about its work vetting Mr. Snowden and Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

USIS officials said Monday that they followed OPM protocol in the Snowden and Alexis cases. They also said they self-reported the cyberattack, noting that other big contractors and federal agencies have been targeted in recent years too.

Last week, Republican lawmakers pushed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to sever ties with the company.

“How can the American taxpayer be expected to trust such a company to properly vet immigrants seeking citizenship and ensure that terrorists and criminals are not being lawfully admitted into our country and communities?” Rep. Matt Salmon, Arizona Republican, wrote in a letter to Mr. Johnson.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, separately raised concerns about the border security contract.

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