Investigator Churn and Burn

You forgot all the income they get from BIs who quit before 1 year and must pay back “training” monies. That must be a tidy money-maker for many firms who can’t manage their newbies correctly and essentially cause those people to quit. I had a friend who quit a FT BI OPM, rightly so, after being told by “supervisor” that he had to do 80 source units of work within 14 days, with no overtime. Crazy!

New a year or so to Contract side; and loving it. A world without stringent metrics is a happy one. Joe, how to you get direct federal contracts? I never have gone that route…

I have worked for 1Force for one year as a Contract Investigator. Highly recommend this outstanding company. Only way to go if you want to work OPM…

We do KGS work. 1Force has a “Pull” case assignment system so you can pick your own cases. The technology of this PACE assignment process is clean, easy-to-use and probably the best out there.

Pay is standard; no extra $$ for TESIs. No mileage. TDYs available.

They LEAVE ME ALONE to do my work, so I feel like a professional, grown-up BI. They have 30-min. voluntary phone meetings with us a few times a month, and send out meeting recap emails if I miss them. These meetings are so helpful as they clarify changes on OPM contract, give advice, and sometimes spotlight a KGS person who has great insights on a particular task we do.

Management is very professional, kind, trustworthy and hard-working. They are responsive to my needs. They want to help me succeed, and have given me time to talk if I have problems. They even give compliments (when deserved). Communications with my manager are smooth and good; I don’t feel like a number here at all but, for first time in a long time, part of a team. If it wasn’t for 1Force I probably wouldn’t be doing OPM anymore…

Invoicing is a dream. When I transmit, that’s my invoice. No need to do anything else! Payment is always on time, and I get detailed weekly summary of my work/payment. I hate paperwork so this is a big plus for me.

No, I didn’t get paid to write this post. I am just happy to have found a firm that makes a difficult job easier to do.

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Hello. How are you liking the job… I had two interviews for the D.C. area and I am trying to find out more information on the position to make sure that if I am offered the job, I don’t want to regret it. I am currently a federal LEO in Texas so I will be relocating as well… My number one concern is the fact that I’m hearing that investigators are required to “produce” or else risk being fired. If you could offer any insight I would greatly appreciate it.

Lynk79, I been at this a long time and unless there’s some other compelling reason (like being closer to family already in the area or something), I would NEVER relocate for this work unless it’s for one of the actual Federal BI positions. You will be used and abused by any contractor. This industry needs to be unionized so bad it’s not even funny, because we are in no way even remotely close to being on-par with our Federal compatriots like we should be.

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I just finished the All Hands call for CACI investigators during which I could hardly stop from screaming.

There was a big build up of an exciting announcement designed to clear the backlog of OPM cases.

After they said we have worked out a deal with OPM that you will really be happy with, I’m thinking WOW ! Shred at home or a new express means of reporting an ESI to end reopens for silly discrepancies that are non adjudicatable…anything to help an investigator meet production and quality expectations.

The exciting News? We are throwing a significant amount of $$ at you to work unlimited overtime, but ONLY IF YOU ARE ALREADY MEETING YOUR PRODUCTION AND QLTY STANDARDS

I just filled out an employee survey for morale and, if my peers are an indication, not one investigator said I will keep up an exhausting and largely unsustainable pace for more money. No one said i hope I can leave my family for 3 weeks because i can get another $2500 even if it means missing my childens summer. Everyone I spoke with said they are overwhelmed and tired. People want a balance in their lives so I guess management did not care about their investigators

if CACI was going to work out a deal with OPM why not get a contract modification that addresses the unrealistic expectations from OPM? Have an honest discussion by addressing the reasons cases are not closing. And just for kicks and giggles, why not ask OPM (now NBIB) why they obssess on things that are irrelevant to identifying risk to the public trust or national security?

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oldestinv,

Have you ever done BIs on upper-level OPM people on E St. in D.C.? They’re the kind of people who write memos with things like, “Only if you have the core competencies will you be able to action the key deliverables for your relevant stakeholders going forward.” Expect the process to just get more bureaucratic and stupid. Just like them.

I must’ve had a hundred or so cases in my time where a source made an oblique reference to something that would raise red flag. Or said something clearly incorrect but should be looked into (travel to N. Korea or Iran). Never, not once, did I ever get a re-open or a request to get other sources to see if there might be something there. Meanwhile I’ve never had a case not re-opened where I’d forgotten to disclaim how someone was able to do a one-weekend per month military reserve gig concurrently with a full-time employment. Or how someone could go to school and also work part-time in a work-study job on campus.

To appease OPM (and maximize profit) CACI and KGS only care about pushing this crap through as fast as possible and meet minimum OPM investIgative standards. No OPM contractor can feel good about the quality of work he or she doing, UNLESS he or she is working off the clock.

ROIs for ESI should be limited to updates of info and explanations of issues. Not a litany of affirmative or negative responses to canned questions.

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oldestinv,

Things got so intolerable for me as an OPM contractor I just quit. Without a net (except a working spouse). Best move I ever made. Huge burden lifted. I felt like Andy Dufresne breaking out of Shawshank and working on my boat on the beach of Zihuatanejo. For damn near the whole time I worked as a BI contractor I looked for other work. But it was always half-hearted and dispiriting because of the oppressive and overwhelming OPM contractor work I worried about-- even if just subsconsciously. Still, I managed to get interviews an did well in them (IMO). Still, never get the job. Was always a finalist but lost out. Looking back I attribute that to the negative energy of a beaten-down man. A man who hadn’t felt joy in work for years. I think you give those vibes off no matter how polished you present yourself. But as soon as I quit, I radiated a joy and enthusiasm that propelled me into another gig paying about double. Now I only kick myself for sticking it out so long, hoping for change in the OPM BI game. Not gonna happen.

There’s a book (written or Audible) I recommend. Scott Adams’ “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life”. Adams (of Dilbert cartoon fame) has some stories and advice that will shift your outlook on work and life. He has some really incredibly actionable stuff-- some too fantastic to believe-- that could radically shift someone’s life in 6 months.

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If you don’t mind me asking, what type of a career field did you get into that would pay you double? and if this BI industry was like breaking out of the Shawshank prison like Andy Dufresne did (by the way i love the comparison and one of my favorite shows), I’m surprised you’d want to revisit the misery of the time you spent in “prison” and all of your fellow prisoners feeling the same feeling of being trapped and at a dead end unless somehow it still feels good for you deep down inside to feel vindicated and realize this BI industry is still as bad as it was when you left.

I do believe that there is some “hope” in the BI industry especially if you become an independent contractor and diversify yourself on other contracts that are non-OPM related. OPM contract is like a vampire. It will suck your blood to the point of there being nothing left to give especially if you are working as a F/T’er for an OPM contractor such as KGS or CACI. I definitely have felt like Andy Dufresne and feeling trapped and at a dead end in the past when I was an hourly employee but as a contractor there is some hope. There are other companies/contracts out there that can give you relief and hope. Leave behind the metrics and daily grind and pressure of a F/T’er and become an independent contractor. So in the words of Andy Dufresne: “Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Duetooversight,

I work for a company that does contracting work in human factors-related stuff. I had a little background in that prior to BI work but had nothing to do with being hired. When I said I make double, that was factoring in 20+ hours per week I worked off of the clock when I was an FTE at an OPM contractor. I had to, to keep my head above water-- actually, to keep my head at ONLY 200 feet under water at all times.

I was just being humorous with the Shawshank analogy. The job wasn’t like Shawshank, but the company management was every bit like the warden in Shawshank and THAT is what made the job fell like prison. Constant fear of meeting insane metrics, being fired, etc. The job itself was great and fun.

Regarding my wanting to revisit the job I left. Simply professional reasons. I’ve been working on developing an idea for a tech company doing background investigations. Not replace field investigators but have the company based on the AI principle of extended cognition (see Clive Thompson’s book “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better”). And equip them with some incredibly useful technology directly applicable to BIs-- from human factors research to body-motion lie detection technology (http://www.pcworld.com/article/2864672/new-lie-detector-relies-on-fullbody-suit-for-better-accuracy.html), etc. Anyway, it’s an idea I’ve been working on and hold out hope it will germinate. I think it’s more important now than ever before to move to a scientifically-based BI process rather than simply trying to patch up the current (and horribly outdated) sociologically-based process. Not only is the scientific approach more accurate, it eliminates many of the biases contemporary multicultural societies worry about.

There is hope for the BI industry. If it changes. Not only the ideas discussed above but in more basic ways. Two things that should be done immediately without question. Give the process back to DoD and federalize all private-side BIs who have 3 years of experience and are in good standing.

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Not going to happen federalizing this function and they sure as hell aren’t going to use experienced BI’s and in good standing. That’s not the federal governments hiring standards…the standard of the federal government is giving all of the jobs to former Fed’s or people with veterans preference. Making current contractors Feds would never happen if DOD took this over. That’s too easy. Why would they want to hire 3,000 highly experienced and qualified investigators?

Should this process be federalized? Yes. Will it happen? No. OPM/NBIB likes to have the contractors they contract out to pay for OPM agents and staff salaries and they like to give the bad and crap cases to all of the OPM contractors.

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That of course all goes back to how the ESI is treated I suppose - at this point, it’s an administrative function. My honest assessment is that it needs to be treated as a quasi or full on HUMINT function. Maybe I’m wrong. But I heard from old timers about how they were able to operate in DIS/DSS. Seems like night and day compared to today.

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I really couldn’t agree more. The ESI in particular is a prime example of current the state of the security clearance process. When I accepted this job, I envisioned myself playing a crucial role in uncovering and reporting issues about Subjects that they may have been attempting to conceal. I planned on digging into issues and uncovering all of the facts in a methodical and impartial manner. You know, being an investigator. Now I have come to realize that I was deluding myself about the true nature of the job.

Our role during the ESI is to be a background transcriber, nothing more, nothing less. I am now almost ashamed to admit that I have come to loathe unreported issues that are revealed during the ESI, simply because it means a longer ROI with less time to complete other assigned cases during my “40” hour work week. The disincentive towards doing any actual investigating is a morale killer at best and damaging to national security at worst. This problem can’t be solved by shuffling responsibilities around the Washington DC carousel of agencies. The entire industry needs an overhaul.

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This is the inevitable result of the current system. I remember a DIS (yes, DIS) investigator who told me one time he was at a site doing interviews. He had the minimum required, but something in the back of his mind said to look some more, and he had enough time before his next appointment so he conducted one more interview with a reference, and dug up some very important information.

Would he do that today? Especially if he were not a government employee but working for one of the contractors? With lots of pressure to make numbers and little incentive to do a thorough job?

I think you have my answer to that question. In fact, obtaining more source units than required on a case is all but prohibited, and could incur a reprimand. There is very little deference given to the investigator.

Edit: a word

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The industry needs an overhaul but in my opinion key executive orders and legislation need revision. Our present way of doing things–as far as I can tell–dates all the way back to a core executive order (10450) from 1953 and regulations have snowballed since. Now it doesn’t establish procedure, just criteria. In and of itself, the order doesn’t seem all too bad, but within a modern context I think it’s outdated and lacks perspective. Congress and the ODNI need to take several steps back and rethink this whole thing, because at the end of the day the contractors succumb and have to conform to guidelines set forth by the customer. They’re not there to consult and argue a better way of doing things, they’re there to provide a service. As long as that’s how the relationship works, it’s safe to say you won’t ever see dramatic change on the private side.

When you are talking about other contracts are you referring to DHS, E-Smart, and UNI? Or are there others?

Hi @KnowBetterNow, I have a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind my asking?

Do you still have the same attitude towards 1Force as a superior employer now some time has passed? I’m asking because I received a conditional offer as a Level 1 BI for one of the four big NBIB contract providers. I (and several others on here) have passed my OPM SSBI security clearance check and been approved to work the NBIB contract. However, the prospective employer has now cancelled several new investigator training classes and the only information they will provide is new hire training is suspended indefinitely. My wife is understandably concerned about the viability of my becoming a career path due to the amount of time it has taken thus far to be told to hurry up and wait. To be frank she is really agitated and told me I had better find a new employer soon or it will be time to look outside this industry. Then I looked online and saw that 1Force is hiring in my area.

I’m wondering how the IC career path is to work on the BI contract in regards to compensation? I know there are no benefits (I presume the individual contracts must pay well as there is no hourly compensation), but will 1Force pay for the new investigator training? I also noted there is a six week training path, do they compensate you during this time frame or is the employee on their own financially and they do not get paid until they complete their first investigation?

Lastly, what exactly is an RZ (a term pertaining to a submitted report being rejected due to errors) and what is a TESI?

Thank you in advance for any information you can/will provide.

An RZ is a re-open on a case. Where a case reviewer says you missed this, this and this and you need additional information and clarification on this, this, and this. It is always little, irrelevant minutiae which will make it ennervating. Since OPM has gotten more and more burdensome in their case requirements you will get a lot of these. Fixing them will take up at least 25% of your time. Fixing them is on YOUR time. They will expect these fixed yesterday. If you work your rear off as an IC you can make $25/hour, but the more work you do you run the risk of being overwhelmed when cases, or RZs, blow up on you.

Choosing to work as a BI for a government contractor is not a smart move. On the private side you can be a solid and seasoned worker doing very good work and putting in 50 hours per week and you will make $40k-$50/year. You will never enjoy time off and will always having stuff hanging over you. And you’ll constantly be in fear of produce or perish. This is a much greater threat on the FTE side. On the CI side they take advantage of the fact that CI’s are getting a pension and benefits (i.e., a lot of county, state, and federal taxpayers are essentially subsidizing BI contractor companies).

Personally I think that if a young person were to channel the energy and hustle that they will need to make $45k as a BI, into a sales job, they will make double or six figures in sales. Also in sales you can get better and work on your game, through reading books and trying new things. In the BI industry your game is always controlled for you and trying new things is risky. You can move up and broaden out in sales, but as a BI you will stay in the $40k’s and will to keep up the momentum or be fired in the blink of an eye. Then again, the experience you get as a BI will always be beneficial if you later go into sales. Walking in to the office of a corporate CEO or head honcho and interviewing them would be great preparatory training for future sales builds an incredible confidence and ability to interact and be forced to think on your feet.

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