By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 17, 2009
For more than 12 years, Falls Church-based USIS went about its business quietly scrutinizing the backgrounds of thousands of individuals who needed security clearance to work in the U.S. government or in the private sector.
USIS, which renamed itself Altegrity last month, has ambitions of becoming much more than an investigation and data-collection company.
Altegrity announced two weeks ago that Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, best known for reducing crime in New York City under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s, would become chief executive of its new Altegrity Security Consulting. The new unit is part of the privately held company's plan to increase revenue well beyond its current $1 billion.
"We have aspirations to be substantially larger, so we are hiring Bill Bratton and bringing in a series of experts in different specific areas that can specifically target how you use information and to give great advice," said Altegrity chief executive Michael G. Cherkasky, who was hired a year ago from Marsh & McLennan, the giant security consulting and risk management firm.
The firm will have lots of competition. Dyncorp, SAIC, Lockheed Martin and Kroll all overlap to some extent with Altegrity.
Bratton and Cherkasky know each other well. They worked together when Bratton served as a consultant to Kroll, the Marsh & McLennan company that competes in the same security sector as USIS.
Bratton plans to leave his position in Los Angeles this October and lead the company from New York City.
Altegrity's mission is to train and consult U.S. and foreign police departments, as well as to advise foreign governments on how to build a criminal justice system. Most of the foreign programs will be carried out through the U.S. State Department.
Specifically, Altegrity has its eye on about a dozen State Department contracts expected to be awarded in the coming months. The contracts are aimed at helping post-conflict democracies rebuild their public safety infrastructures.
"It's a multibillion-dollar market opportunity," said David Baron, who has been a financial adviser to USIS for the past nine years and is currently head of the U.S. financial sponsors advisory group for Macquarie Capital.
Bratton brings to the job extensive experience in public safety as well as a list of seasoned subordinates on which he can draw. Many members of his brain trust from Los Angeles and elsewhere are likely to join his management team at Altegrity.
"One of my great strengths is I surround myself with very smart people," Bratton said.
He headed the Bratton Group for six years after leaving the New York City job, and said he has experience and contacts throughout Central and South America, which could bring business to Altegrity.
"That's a part of the world where I could proactively reach out and indicate that I and this newly formed company are available," Bratton said.
Altegrity was launched when the federal government privatized the investigative branch of the Office of Personnel Management in July 1996. The company, which began with 600 employees, started with a five-year contract to provide security clearance background investigations. Its original name was U.S. Investigations Services Inc., and it was an employee-owned company.
The firm has grown to more than 8,000 employees worldwide, with 2,000 based in Northern Virginia and the District. USIS performed more than 2 million investigations for 95 federal agencies and organizations last year, according to an Altegrity spokesman.
The Carlyle Group invested in USIS in October 1999 as a financial and strategic partner. USIS employees cashed out in November 2003 when another investment firm, Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe, acquired a majority stake in the company. Providence Equity Partners, a large, Rhode Island-based private-equity firm, bought USIS in August 2007.
Separate business units operate under the Altegrity umbrella brand.
Its core USIS background-check business, which employs 3,000 investigators in North America alone, also provides training and consulting to foreign governments on how to build a military.
USIS has trained more than 10,000 people around the world in police, anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency techniques. The firm currently has teams in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Indonesia and Pakistan, according to a spokesman.
The company's HireRight unit supplies background and drug screening for companies, including more than a quarter of the U.S. Fortune 500.
The firm's Explore Information Services unit monitors the driving records of more than 30 million drivers for U.S. auto insurers.