What's Behind Low Morale for Background Investigators?

Originally published at: https://clearancejobsblog.com/whats-behind-low-morale-for-background-investigators/

At the tail-end of a recent Security Clearance Podcast, we asked ClearanceJobs contributor and President of the Federal Clearance Assistance Service William Henderson what he sees behind the current low morale of background investigators. “For the longest time there has been a lot of pressure on investigators to complete cases,” said Henderson. Background investigators are…

AMEN! This should not be a for-profit game.

Let’s see, an impossibly confusing Tier system with a complete lack of training, while working more complicated cases case (MAVNI, translator, etc.), all while demanding more and more production.

Let’s not forget the all stick and no carrot approach as well, doesn’t matter how many issues were covered or how much investigation you had to do, how long the report is, you miss one thing, RZ!


William Henderson is the man. He summed up nicely the biggest issues with the low morale among investigators. I think a for-profit company can do as good a job or better than the government. We saw that with Keypoint prior to it being taken over by a private equity firm and the installation of a titular CEO. Since then the pressure to maximize profits and push, push, push to close cases has gotten ludicrous. Constant and ever-changing stunts to churn out cases faster is so demoralizing to investigators and thinning out the investigator ranks quickly. Every job requires you sometimes have to go a little above and beyond sometimes to be satisfied with your work. To do so now, in the investigator job, is self-defeating. You will never receive harassing phone calls or emails for doing a half-assed job. You will the aforementioned and veiled threats of termination if you miss some production mark and some artificial due dates (ACDs). This is always hanging over investigators and they can never find any security or peace of mind in their job.


He really hits the nail on the head at the end of the pod cast about being able to learn from your compatriots. I can remember a time when my closest co-workers and I tried to make time to do a luncheon at least once a month and they were very informative from a knowledge sharing stand-point, but sadly those days have been at least 5-7 years ago now.

And from a training standpoint, I for one refuse to train anymore, because I’m tired of wasting my time with people who will leave after as little as six months in, once they’ve seen the light-of-day with the proverbial “rest of the story” as the late and great Paul Harvey so eloquently stated! At the end days with USIS (and now KGS) they did not deserve anyone they were managing to hood-wink into this industry!

It’s now 2020 and the industry has not changed. Investigators are still working under “burned-out” conditions. It’s terrible. I as well as many others are looking for a career change. Working for the government side may be better, but working for companies that only worry about profit over National Security, I would NOT work with. If I knew then what I know now, things would have been different. National Security should NOT be for profit industry.


Hmmm…nothing about the LOW pay and the fact that there has not been any kind of pay increase (still XXX dollars per case item for the past 5-10 years).

So…“lack of institutional knowledge or experience” and “Work from home” are the reasons…got it.


You cannot have this conversation without the “begin timeliness” factor from the customer. Companies are penalized financially for NOT churning out the cases. It’s simple. The customer can set maximum caseloads for contractors. They know dang well the disconnect between quality and quantity. Starting someone at $38,000 to $40,000 a year? You can go answer phones for that much. I have been in this business long enough to know the details as second nature. If you care about National Security then changes would have been made a long time ago. Everything changes but it all stays the same. And one last thing…if you don’t like the work…go get another job!


First, your reference to “begin timeliness” and the “companies getting penalized” does not justify causing burn-out. If timeliness is an issue for these companies, maybe they need to hire additional FIs to handle the workload and not overwhelm their hard working FIs. For you to say “get another job”, it’s not as easy as you may believe, especially depending on your locale. It’s not easy. But, many FIs in the industry have been trying to look for a job, I speak with many of them that are employed with ALL of the contract companies. Unfortunately, the skills you acquire with this job do not apply to most jobs out there. So many of us went back to college or obtained certifications and STILL unable to “get another job” or make that 'career change". These skills are no transferable to many jobs out there. Watchurbk, your response sounds like you were in management, which is fine. If that’s the case, you may have lost touch with the field? Just saying…


Yep…that is the ultimate way of fixing low morale…“And one last thing…if you don’t like the work…go get another job!” Problem solved. Unbelievable…


I’m not sure why some are so offended by the “get another job” comment. I DID move to have job security in this business or some job security. I’ve been doing this almost 15 years. Sure most of us would rather work for the feds and get pay raises and job security and less of a workload. But that’s not the case. Yeah, If I don’t like what’s going on I’ll get another job. I’ll figure it out. I’ll move again if I have to. You do what you have to do to feed your family. And it IS the customer who expects timeliness. Contractors are not charities. They have to make money. If you don’t like it leave. The rest is just whining!!

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It’s not about being “offended” Watchurbk, but if it were easy to find another job that is equal to the same pay, I am sure people would move on much easier and quicker. You said " You do what you have to do to feed your family". Well, taking a lower paying job is NOT going to feed the family. In addition, many of us enjoy the job and take it seriously and only hope that upper leadership will realize that they need to hire additional FIs to handle the workload rather than overloading FIs to meet 7 day ACDs.

Again, you must have been in management because if you were in the field, you would know that being overloaded with cases is the problem, not that you have shorter ACDs. To be assigned multiple T5s with 7 days to complete, is the issue. Period! End of story! It is not “whining”, it’s just an assessment of what is going on. And yeah, everyone can just “move” to another location right? I am sorry to say, you are definitely out of touch with the reality of the field. Good day to you!


Nope. I’ve been in the field my entire time. Would never be in management ever.

Well by your responses, that’s just hard to believe. I know many many investigators throughout the years to present; never have justified being overworked.

6 days after starting my new job away from BI and I remember why I wanted to leave so bad. I am still getting phone calls after 5 to tie up loose ends. I am really enjoying my new job where at the end of the day, I am not being called to provide clarification, correction, additional information, and receiving spreadsheet after spreadsheet of not meeting various metrics or the ever moving target of what to prioritize over the other (TESI v PRT v 20 day cases, etc ).


Congratulations on getting out! I do not miss this world at all either…I don’t think there’s anything that could get me to return to it.

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