Thursday, October 30, 2014

Customs and Border Protection Halts Background Checks Over Security Concerns

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently suspended all background investigations on current and prospective Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees due to security concerns over Personally Identifiable Information (PII). At least five sole-source, no-bid contracts of "unusual and compelling urgency" totaling almost a half million dollars were awarded to various information technology vendors at the end of September.
    Although the justification documents for the contracts state that the awards were "not the result of a lack of planning," the contracts' sole-source, no-bid nature was justified because "[t]ime and urgency did not allow for soliciting multiple sources." CBP halted all background investigations until security upgrades are completed:

        The five upgrade contracts were awarded in ColoradoVirginiaIndianaMaryland, and New Mexico. According to the documents, the need for the upgrade is the result of "a requirement for increased security standards for background investigation contractors accessing Personally Identifiable Information." No source is cited for the "requirement for increased security standards":

    The BPA referenced in the document covers at least 47 transactions stretching back to 2009 totaling $53 million for background investigations for the CBP. Market research, usually a requirement for government contracts, was not done in the case of the security enhancements because, per the government documents, only the selected vendors can conduct the upgrades due to the systems' proprietary nature. Without the upgrades, use of the systems would have to be discontinued.
    It is not clear if the CBP has resumed background checks yet. An email to the CBP requesting an answer to that question and clarification on other issues has been acknowledged by a CBP media representative but a response to the inquiries has not yet been forthcoming.

UPDATE: Although KeyPoint Government Solutions is the vendor shown in the screenshots above, KeyPoint is only one of five vendors involved in the upgrades. The other four are Omniplex World Services Corp., CSC Systems & Solutions LLC, MSM Security Services LLC, and ADC LTD NM.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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