Background Investigations Conducted by the United States Marshals Service
E&I Report No. I-2005-002
Office of the Inspector General
On January 10, 2005, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) sent copies of the draft report to the Director of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) with a request for written comments. The Director provided the USMS’s final written comments to us in a memorandum dated February 3, 2005.
The USMS concurred with all seven of the OIG recommendations; however, the actions that the USMS proposed to address three recommendations are not sufficient. The response to our recommendation to improve the accuracy of the databases the USMS uses to manage the background investigations program described actions that strengthen the databases, but will not correct the problems of inaccurate and missing data. Also, we recommended that all comments by managers regarding an adjudicator’s recommendation be documented in the file so all information is available to decision-makers. However, the USMS indicated that the Chief of Human Resources Services would selectively document managers’ input. In addition, we recommended that court security officers (CSOs) be reinvestigated every five years because they have security duties and they carry weapons. The OIG made this recommendation to ensure that contractors who have security duties are reinvestigated in a manner similar to Department employees whose duties include security. The USMS stated that it would conduct a criminal records check on CSOs every five years, but did not agree to conduct background reinvestigations on these CSOs. It remains the OIG’s position that the reinvestigation should also include the checks and interviews that the Department requires for employees with similar responsibilities: law enforcement, credit, and national agency checks (e.g., National Crime Information Center, National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System); personal interviews; and interviews with references.
Following is an analysis of each USMS response to the report’s seven recommendations.
Recommendation 1:Recommendation 1: Revise and formally adopt written policies and procedures that address all aspects of the background investigation process to reflect current federal regulations and Department policy.
Status: Resolved - Open
Summary of USMS's Response: The USMS is revising its Personnel Security policy and expects to implement it by April 30, 2005.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is responsive to our recommendation. By May 2, 2005, provide a complete copy of the revised Personnel Security policy and procedures to guide policy implementation, that reflect current federal regulations and Department policy pertaining to the background investigation process.
Recommendation 2: Develop an adequate database structure for the Human Resources Division to ensure that essential data are not overwritten and to enable both the Human Resources Division and Judicial Security Division to monitor compliance with regulations and Department policy.
Status: Resolved - Open
Summary of USMS's Response: The USMS Human Resource Division has consolidated all contractor and employee records (except those of court security officers) into a single database. Further modifications will be made by March 15, 2005, to comply with policy and regulations.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is responsive to our recommendation. By May 2, 2005, provide a description of the changes that have been made to the database.
Recommendation 3: Implement procedures to routinely review the accuracy of the databases that the Human Resources Division and Judicial Security Division use to manage the background investigation program.
Summary of USMS's Response The Judicial Security Division will implement a monthly database report identifying all CSOs with background investigations or records checks that are more than five years old. Requests for record checks on these identified personnel will be sent to the districts. The initial record checks will be completed by April 1, 2005, and the database will be updated by May 1, 2005.
By September 30, 2005, the USMS Information Technology Services will develop a program to match the Human Resources database to other databases, including the National Finance Center payroll system, to ensure that the most current information is available.
OIG's Analysis: The actions described by the USMS are partially responsive to our recommendation and will strengthen the USMS databases. However, these actions do not address the deficiency noted in our report concerning the databases unacceptably high level of inaccurate or missing data (see page 15). By May 2, 2005, provide a description of procedures that have been implemented requiring routine review of these databases to ensure that the data fields contain accurate and complete data.
Recommendation 4: Require periodic written reviews on the efficiency and effectiveness of the background investigations program to determine if process improvements are needed.
Status: Resolved – Open
Summary of USMS's Response: The USMS will require that all programs perform a periodic self-inspection to evaluate the adequacy of procedures, and will correct deficiencies. The self-inspection criteria will be provided to the OIG by March 15, 2005.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is responsive to our recommendation. By May 2, 2005, provide a copy of the criteria, procedures and schedule for conducting the self-inspections.
Recommendation 5: Develop guidelines for adjudicators that include instructions on how to proceed when an Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) investigation is incomplete and criteria for recommending security approvals and disapprovals that are consistent with OPM and Department policy.
Status: Resolved – Open
Summary of USMS's Response: In the procedures required under Recommendation 1 due on May 2, 2005, the USMS will include guidance to adjudicators on the requisite steps to take when an incomplete investigation file is received from OPM.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is responsive to our recommendation. Provide a copy of the updated procedures by May 2, 2005.
Recommendation 6: Require that the Chief of Human Resources Services fully document comments from field managers on an adjudicator’s recommendation regarding a security approval for an applicant or employee.
Summary of USMS's Response: The Chief of Human Resources Services will continue to document any and all substantive information based on direct knowledge received from managers that impact the background investigation process. Endorsements not based on direct knowledge of the issues will have no bearing on suitability determinations and will not be included in the file.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is partially responsive to our recommendation. However, contrary to the USMS’s response that it documents all substantive information that affects the background investigation process, our review found instances in which the Chief of Human Resources Services received verbal pressure from field managers regarding an adjudicator’s recommendation that was not recorded in the background investigation file. Decision-makers should have a complete file available when making or reviewing security approval decisions. To ensure accountability, all comments and information, regardless of whether derived from direct or indirect knowledge, received from managers regarding an adjudicator’s recommendation should be documented. The policy and procedures for the background investigation process required by Recommendation 1 should include a requirement that all input received from managers on an adjudicator’s recommendations must be documented by the Chief of Human Resources Services.
Recommendation 7: Require reinvestigations every five years for contractors who are assigned law enforcement duties.
Status: Resolved – Open
Summary of USMS's Response: The Department’s Security and Emergency Planning Staff guidance does not require reinvestigation for contract employees and courts do not require reinvestigations for employees, except for those in probation and pre-trial services. However, because CSOs perform facility security functions and carry weapons, a criminal records check will be performed on CSOs hired before January 2000. The result will be entered into a newly created database field. Positive results will be considered for possible contract performance violations. These checks are expected to be completed by April 2005.
OIG's Analysis: The action described by the USMS is partially responsive to our recommendation. However, we believe that CSOs, because they are armed and have full access to federal court facilities, should be reinvestigated every five years, in a manner similar to the minimum checks for Department of Justice employees who are assigned security duties and carry weapons. These reinvestigation checks include: law enforcement, credit, and national agency checks (e.g., National Crime Information Center, National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System); personal interviews; and interviews with three references.