Background checks zero in on the undisclosed

Doug Steele is a vice presidentin the Investigative Services Division of USIS.
Doug Steele is a vice presidentin the Investigative Services Division of USIS. (Usis)
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By Dana Hedgpeth
Monday, October 11, 2010

Each year, the U.S. government issues thousands of security clearances to employees. But it is not Uncle Sam who does all of those background checks. Many are done by a private contractor.

Falls Church-based USIS, which was mentioned in The Post's Top Secret America series, is one of the largest outfits doing screening and background checks for the government. Its clients include the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security and Defense, plus about a dozen intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

USIS, which is privately held, has had contracts with the government to do background investigations since the mid-'90s. The company won't say how much it makes from government contracts, but executives said last year it processed more than 2 million investigations for the government. The U.S. government then uses the USIS information to decide whether to grant someone a clearance.

Doug Steele, vice president of operations in the Investigative Services Division of USIS, discussed the business. Here are some interview excerpts.

Q: What's the worst thing someone can say when going through a background investigation?

A: To me, the worst thing someone can say is what he doesn't say.

What do you mean by that?

When there's not full disclosure, that's what can get you in trouble.


Because it goes to a person's honesty, integrity, personal conduct and candor. If someone is not truthful in the course of a background investigation with us, then it raises the question, "How can he be trusted in a position of responsibility dealing with national security on a day-to-day basis?"

What kinds of questions do you ask a person?

For higher-level clearances, we ask such questions as 'Is your spouse affiliated with anyone that others may question?'

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