The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 8, 2014

Feds reclaim work from USIS

By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor

GROVE CITY — There will be about 50 fewer USIS employees doing background checks as the federal government said Friday it was taking back part of the work it once gave to the company.

Published media reports said the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on Feb. 24 will begin doing all final reviews of background investigations. Much of the background work done by USIS is done in the greater Grove City area.

However, it wasn’t known where those 50 workers are based.

The company, a unit of Falls Church, Va.-based Altegrity Inc., has been accused of fraud by the Justice Department in a whistleblower lawsuit. The government last month claimed the company failed to provide adequate background checks in at least 665,000 instances. Such vetting is a requirement before a federal employee or contractor can be granted a security clearance.

In announcing the decision, OPM didn’t say how USIS’s contracts would be affected. In addition to its background-check work, USIS is responsible for conducting final reviews and closing the investigations performed by all the agency’s contractors, according to the Justice Department complaint filed in federal court in Montgomery, Ala.

USIS’s mission as a contractor for the federal government is to work for the OPM, which is responsible for performing background investigations of current or prospective federal employees and contractors.

Last October, the Wall Street Journal reported that top USIS executives brow-beat managers at its Grove City area operations to hurry the pace of background checks to boost revenue. Demands for faster turnarounds on those checks ramped up intensity in 2010, and in 2011, the company won a federal contract that could fetch up to $2.7 billion.

Establishing itself in Grove City in the late 1990s, USIS found the area attractive because of its proximity to an abandoned mine in Boyers, Butler County, where vital records had been stored by the government. Once the domain of the federal government, background checks services were privatized in 1996.

USIS has offices in Grove City and Pine Township.

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry said based on late 2013 figures, the company is Mercer County’s ninth-largest employer. An exact employment figure for the county isn’t known but is believed to be above 500.