CWS 3.0: September 25, 2013

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Shooting Puts Focus on Contractors’ Background Checks

Some staffing buyers require background checks of contract workers. However, the shootings last week at the Washington Navy Yard raised concerns over the federal government’s vetting processes of its contractors.

Government contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16 before being killed himself, according to news reports. Media also report Alexis had a background check by the same company that performed a background check on Edward Snowden, the man accused of leaking information on National Security Agency surveillance.

At least two Senators have weighed in with concerns about the company USIS, which performed the checks.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called for an overhaul of the security check process.

“From Edward Snowden to Aaron Alexis, what’s emerging is a pattern of failure on the part of this company, and a failure of this entire system, that risks nothing less than our national security and the lives of Americans,” McCaskill said in a press release. “What’s most frightening is that USIS performs a majority of background checks for our government. We clearly need a top-to-bottom overhaul of how we vet those who have access to our country’s secrets and to our secure facilities. I plan to pursue such an overhaul, and won't rest until it’s achieved.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also called for a review of security clearance background investigations.

“As we have seen in the case of Edward Snowden and now with the tragic events that transpired at the Navy Yard this week, there are real questions with regards to the effectiveness of our security process,” Portman said. “We need to figure out what went wrong and how we can fix the faults in the system to make sure that we improve the effectiveness and efficiency of this process.”

The Washington Post reported Alexis had previous arrests on his record — one for shooting out the tires of a car in 2004 and another in 2008 for firing a shot into the ceiling of an apartment. The paper also reported Alexis was hired on by The Experts, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based information technology consulting firm. The Experts issued a statement on its website on Sept. 17 regarding the incident.

“The Experts would like to express our deepest condolences and sympathies regarding the incident that occurred at the D.C. Naval Yards. We are cooperating fully with the FBI and other authorities in relation to the investigation on the suspect,” read the statement.

“At this time, we can confirm that the suspect had been employed by The Experts for approximately six months over the last year, during which time we enlisted a service to perform two background checks and we confirmed twice through the Department of Defense his Secret government clearance,” the statement continued. “The latest background check and security clearance confirmation were in late June of 2013 and revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation.”

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