The Washington Post

Lawmakers demand answers on contract with USIS, accused of defrauding U.S.

Two influential members of Congress on Thursday demanded to know why the Department of Homeland Security recently awarded a contract worth up to $190 million to USIS, the company facing a Justice Department lawsuit that accuses it of defrauding the government.

In a letter to the department, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said they wanted to know why DHS awarded the company the contract despite the lawsuit and requested a briefing from Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“The purpose of our inquiry is to determine whether the Department considered this billion-dollar fraud suit against USIS before awarding the company a new government contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cummings said in a statement. “If not, we want to know why not, and whether legislative reforms may be necessary.”

Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Coburn is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

USIS has long performed much of the background check work used in granting security clearances for the federal government. The lawsuit, which was initially brought by a whistleblower and later joined by the Justice Department, alleges that USIS “dumped,” or submitted incomplete background checks, in 665,000 cases in order to hit revenue targets.

Since the accusations came to light, the company has hired a new management team and has said it enhanced oversight procedures. The company is tasked with doing background checks and does not grant security clearances, which is left to the government.

In a statement, USIS said it was awarded the DHS contract “after a rigorous two-year competition, which followed long-standing government procurement procedures.” It also said that the division that won the contract “is not involved in the background investigation business ad has not been linked in any way to the ongoing government investigation.”

DHS has said past-performance was a consideration in the awarding of the contract and that USIS met the requirements. But in a statement, Coburn said: “We want to determine how an entity under DOJ investigation could receive such a lucrative contract from the federal government.”

The contract, awarded July 1, was worth up to $190 million to provide field support services related to DHS’ immigration system.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Christian Davenport covers federal contracting for The Post's Financial desk. He joined The Post in 2000 and has served as an editor on the Metro desk and as a reporter covering military affairs. He is the author of "As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard."
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