On the heels of news that the Chinese breach of federal employees’ personal information also compromised a database holding sensitive security clearance information on millions of federal employees and contractors, our colleague Christian Davenport offers some startling revelations about the vetting process for clearances.

He writes Monday that a new group of private contractors who are supposed to eliminate the corner-cutting that helped doom the previous company’s contract with the Office of Personnel Management is doing the same thing, cutting corners to meet quotas, according to employees.

Davenport writes:

For years, investigators charged with vetting the backgrounds of those who handle the nation’s secrets have said they were pressured to churn through cases as quickly as possible. The faster they turned them in, the faster their company got paid — even if the investigations were rushed and incomplete.
The company, USIS, lost the contract to conduct background checks used in granting security clearances after an employee blew the whistle in a lawsuit, eventually joined by the Justice Department. In the wake of a scandal so fierce that members of Congress accused USIS of defrauding the government and prioritizing profit over the nation’s security, federal officials vowed to prevent such abuses from ever happening again.
But a similar quota system used by USIS to drive its investigators continues at the companies that now perform the bulk of the investigations — and in some cases is even more demanding, according to internal company documents and interviews with current and former investigators.
The field workers at KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI are required to meet pre-determined numbers that dictate how many people they have to interview per day. With their compensation tied to quotas — failure to meet them could lead to a cut in pay — field investigators say the focus on quantity over quality that was so pervasive at USIS persists. And the pressure to meet the goals often doesn’t allow them the freedom to follow important leads to determine who should be granted access to classified material, they say.