The sad state of the contractor BI field


#1

I understand, from reading comments on Glassdoor, that under OPM's new contract they will be expanding to four contractors. Does anyone think the current state of affairs can continue, contract investigator morale at an all-time low? Or is this just the new norm?

Here are just a few recent reviews from Glassdoor on Keypoint. They are representative of 95% of all reviews in the last 1-2 years (Employee ratings are among the lowest for companies on Glassdoor-- even USIS at its lowest):

Feb 18, 2016
"where to start?"

Current Employee - Special Investigator III in Orange, CA

Morale has gone to hell with this company; I thought things were bad at USIS before the end. Over the last 12 months (at least) with Keypoint I have seen a lot of the same USIS management coming over and infecting the corporate culture. Management needs to see this change course. I know they won't but I feel better knowing I'm not the only one feeling this way.

......

Mar 10, 2016
"It is only a matter of time before everyone is gone"

Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

I came to this company from USIS long before everyone else did. When I first started, the company was great and I actually liked my job again.....and then they became greedy. As soon as they realized that THEY could make more money if they just forced their investigators work just a little bit harder, the company went from pretty good, to a nightmare.

As people have said, it is all about the numbers. I never had a problem making numbers until we had to work twice as hard to do the same amount of work. We have more administrative work. The typing got horrendous with the ridiculous refiles...

I find it very interesting that OPM said they were going to bring on 4 contractors with this rebid. 4!! Not including OPM (who is hiring more investigators)...so that means at best, Keypoint stands to loose 50% of their work. What is the plan when that happens?! Don't worry, no plan is needed...because when there are other companies to chose from, everyone will be running from Keypoint as fast as they can...
...

March 17, 2016
"just keeps getting worse"

Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

high-level management openly exhibits condescending attitude toward employees
Significant turnover in leadership over the last 1.5-2 years, however working environment has continually decline, not improvement
...

March 12, 2016
"the Integrity Quota"

Current Investigator

It's an adrenaline rush to wake up every day wondering if today is the day you'll be fired for accidentally doing something wrong or making a mistake. Keeps everything exciting.


#2

I read the glass door reviews every so often (monthly at least) and am very well aware of the poor morale with KGS. It's a microcosm of what the reviews are with USIS if you go look at the old USIS reviews.

The one review that concerns me the most above (if it is true) is the review titled "Integrity Quota". If OPM mandates that KGS has a integrity quota to submit each month or quarter or annually, then this is very disturbing. The thing that has bothered me the most with KGS is the nit pickiness of their quality assurance program. A typo on a number on a Source's address or a typo on the street name of an address or the Source's name gets you an email from quality assurance asking you to acknowledge that you made a mistake and to not allow it to happen again.

As bad as USIS was, they never went to the lengths that KGS is going to with their QA program. I'm sure OPM has something to do with the staunch QA programs that their contractors are required to follow.

KGS also makes personal phone calls to sources and record providers to do their QA reports while USIS always did it through mailers. I never received one QA inquiry into my work while at USIS for the 9 years I was there except for one occasion when I accidentally checked the box that said in person instead of telephone when I interviewed a Source. Of course, once the QA person with USIS, checked my notes....my notes indicated that I had interviewed the Source at his own request by phone. I had no other problems with any of the thousands upon thousands of interviews I did at USIS.

However at KGS, I have received 2 or 3 inquiries into some typographical errors for a source's address or for forgetting to check the general release box when a general release had been provided for a record. When I asked the QA person if they checked my notes to determine if I provided the general release to the record provider, the QA person told me that they didn't have enough time to look into my notes and do a thorough integrity audit. I then asked her, then how do you know if I did in fact use the release or not if you are not going to check my notes. How can you do a thorough integrity investigation if you are not going to check people's notes to determine the severity of the discrepancy?? She then proceeded to say she didn't have enough time to do this and that this was just a reminder to check the box in FWS for the general release tab. I ended up calling the retention team myself and asking them if my notes showed that I had provided the general release form to the record provider. Sure enough, my notes indicated that I used the general release form. In order to exonerate myself and prove my innocence, I emailed back the QA person and said that I checked the notes and I did use the general release but must have forgot to check the general release box. I got nothing in return. After reading that review on glass door, I'm starting to believe more and more that maybe it is just a numbers game to find out how many nit picky errors that KGS can send up the chain of command to OPM about all of the discrepancies and errors they find in our work even though 99 percent of them are not malicious or cause for any integrity concern and the errors we all make are primarly accidental because we are human beings and not robots.

Long story short, if you are going to question our integrity and thoroughness, at least do a thorough and complete integrity investigation into the report to include looking at our own notes before casting blame on the severity of what we do wrong in the job or the oversights we make as human beings.

I truly believe that we are all one small minor mistake or accident of not understanding a policy or rule 100% accurately from losing our careers in this profession (I use the term profession lightly) because of the way OPM requires their contractors to conduct their quality assurance and compliance. It really is a long dead end road in this career and I think a lot of us would have left now if we could find ourselves a new path/road in an investigative career. Problem is there is nowhere to go unless you have former military and veterans preference or have former federal service to get a fed OPM job which is less than 5% of the contractor work force that actually has that sort of background for veterans presence or former federal service. For the young professional in his mid 20's to 40's like most of us whom I assume are posting on these message boards and the type of people we are that actually care about what we do and our career paths....we are down a long and winding dead end career path and the only way to get off of the dead end road is to traverse back down the dead end path for many years and re-invent yourself with a new college education or getting involved in a new industry and getting that experience and knowledge which would take years to do for which many of us have wasted so much time down this path and we can never recover all of that time...so many of us continue down this long winding dead end road without much of a glimmer of hope that it will ever get better or that we can obtain that nice GS 12 salary, retirement, affordable health insurance, and a level of protection from QA audits not seen on the contractor side like our federal counterparts


#3

Don't worry I'm sure we will be in good hands...

http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/management/2016/03/18/opm-nbib-transition/81970406/

http://federalnewsradio.com/opm/2016/03/opm-kicks-off-security-clearance-transition-naming-team-leaders/

Hopefully someone informed the new Deputy Manager how things have drastically changed since she was an investigator for FIS during 2007. She is in for a real shocker! There is no hope for this industry! Run away as fast as you can!


#4

@Joe Hackett

I hear you. It is a depressing spot that many of us are in. And unfortunately we are so tired from trying to keep our head above water, to merely survive another week, that we never get the chance to work on ourselves, improve ourselves. I've worked many jobs where there was down time during the job itself. In this job there is no downtime, even when you're technically off the clock or on vacations. It's bad when you find myself wishing that things were only as bad as they were 5 years ago. I left a pretty good job (with promotions and a pension) to take this BI job. I was excited about the possibilities. I wish I had never stepped into the abyss.


#6

Fed Investigator,

We don't even need to bring up how on international work they want you to pump out as many cases as possible.

All of the "helpful hints" emails that come out seem to be ways to cut corners.


#7

@mdcontinv, just curious, what kind of items are they scheduling for international work these days? Thanks in advance, Marko


#8

all case types. Subject interviews, on base employments, references, law checks, medi items. Just no resi items. Basically anything that requires coverage on base. No work is conducted off base.


#10

Too bad no one was worried about manifesting all that PII that was hacked. The leadership at this agency needs to get their priorities straight. I'm convinced that this is a race to the bottom for some unknown reason.


#11

@Fed Investigator

Things like the daily manifest highlight what a burdensome administrative box-checking operation this whole BI thing has devolved into. Last week I did some rare investigative work in a civil court record and it was fun. But I left stressed out about how much time it took up and how if I were to engage in more of this time-consuming investigative work stuff I'd probably be fired by my contractor company. Very sad. Made me think that I should consider hanging up the BI work and try to work as a PI. I'd make half my current salary, work double the hours, but I'd love it and it wouldn't feel like working. But alas, I have bills to pay. And I still hold out hope that some radical changes will be made and this job might once again become investigative.


#12

The reason investigations have turned into box checking is because someone pushed for an inhearant governmental function to become a privatized profit making machine. I wonder the level of corruption present when this thing was spun off in the 1990's. Lets look to who was paid first? Who received the initial payment of money? My guess it's the decision makers who went from government to contractor. This privatization was pushed through and turned into a payday for government employee decision makers. They were probably at the end of thier career and looking for payday. They put lipstick on a pig and made it look attractive to private equity. A boiler room job at it's finest. It is sad as the entire process is broken and collapsing and the investigators and tax payers are paying the price.


#13

Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. Things are about to get much, much, MUCH worse. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I've been working Tier 3 cases almost exclusively for the past few weeks. Sit down and get comfortable, these things are beasts. They are much more time consuming than any other case type at this point and I'm not sure OPM is getting its money's worth at around $500 for these cases. Honestly once they roll our Tiers 4 and 5 I am calling it now that the backlog is going to jump to mid-2000's levels.


#14

Discrepant - you are correct but you have to lump in OPM with the profit making machine. They charge other agencies for the work. OPM may be a government agency but their function is HR not investigations. They are the crux of the problem forcing the contractors to follow inane rules. They also stacked the deck with the bidding process. They forced the Wage Determination to be the only one in Federal contracts that is not regionally adjusted. While they pay OPM S/A a geograffical adjustment, they do not provide that for the contractors. This forces underbidding by the contractors and allows OPM to stay within budget. If the contractors paid a comparable wage to OPM, OPM's expenses would skyrocket and Congress would have a cow.


#15

I wonder how this will further erode the current background investigation process.

Federal agencies to no longer ask about criminal history.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/29/fact-sheet-during-national-reentry-week-reducing-barriers-reentry-and

If it is discriminatory to ask about criminal history for federal employment, it likewise seems discriminatory to all the applicants for federal jobs which require a clearance.

I now am wondering if we'll have to scrap the blackmail question because of its implicit prejudicial nature. Maybe we'll have to qualify the general blackmail question. "Is there anything in your background, to include only unprosecuted murders, rapes, and robberies, for which you might be vulnerable to..."


#16

Trump should scrap that Obama directive telling Federal agencies to no longer ask about criminal history.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/29/fact-sheet-during-national-reentry-week-reducing-barriers-reentry-and4 Another lib-tard idea that meant well but in practice doesn't work well in reality.

With "anything goes" morality out there, no moral behavior is seen as being negative as we are in a "Don't judge me, bro" culture. Moral relativism abounds. There are no more "questionable" people or groups I guess if dangerous BLM-like and Soros-funded organizations and lawless Open Borders policies, etc. continue to be promoted and accepted by some misguided leaders. God help us all.


#17

This is a reminder to all, please keep your posts professional and free of profanity- thanks!


#18

I'm going to re-reference Joe Hackett's original post from back in 2016 where he laments the Integrity Assurance issues arising. After two decades of work as a contract investigator, I finally bailed this month for the very reasons Joe cited. During a note audit, a transposed number in a public record got me a gut punch from my manager and OPM with a harsh warning that a second occurrence within six months could be fatal to my career. And then the threats that I could be liable to pay for re-work to re-open other cases to check for more errors, and the costs of a prosecution that would call into question my honesty and integrity. Done. Over and out. A once enjoyable, rewarding career summarily reduced to this. Not worth the risk. No more sleepless nights. At my age, I'll have to take a significant cut in pay and change career fields. The ultimate irony is that, whatever mistakes might be found in my case work, ABSOLUTELY NONE over the course of 20 years would have any substantive impact on a subject's adjudication. And that's the bottom line. But, in their zeal to nitpick, the investigator becomes the enemy and is targeted accordingly. Not me, not anymore. Good luck to the rest of you.


#19

Great. Another experienced investigator leaves the arena. Meanwhile the backlog keeps growing and more fresh bodies are tossed into the contractor BI grinder.

Best of luck to you @hoerschel hope you find something soon and can put your skills to work. I think the ability to talk to a wide variety of people, establish some level of rapport quickly, and detect squishy answers is underappreciated.


#20

@hoerschel

I'm actually Joe Hackett. I had to find a new user name when this new website format was created. I'm so sorry to hear this man. We are all one minor insignificant detail away from having our careers ruined or a source not recalling the exact details of what was discussed and having our integrity called into question. So who was the contractor that took it this far? KGS? I've seen way too many people that are good solid investigators get pushed out of the industry for such total nonsense. I'd probably do the same if left with your circumstance also. If you work in this field long enough then something is going to get called into question because we are not robots and are human beings and are susceptible to human error. If you can go into any detail, I'd like to know exactly why they would pursue such a harsh punishment for a public record typo. What are they saying you did wrong?


#21

@Duetooversight
Joe, the problem was exactly as described. I was never accused--nor have been guilty of--falsifying information. What we're talking about are benign clerical errors that have nothing to do with a subject's suitability. The focus on accuracy is fine. No problem with that. We can all aspire to be more accurate. But, as you said, we are not robots. CONTEXT of the error is critical to determine if the mistake is really relevant to the ultimate task at hand--adjudicating clearance suitability. If the error is substantive, then disciplinary action is warranted. If it's a clerical error, i.e., transposing numbers in the date a civil court record was filed--then, why all the hyperventilating? Why the threats? The concern I had was a second benign error being found within the six month window, triggering a suspension and re-opening of other cases for which I would become financially liable to reimburse the contractor and OPM.