As OPM’s background bureau gets off the ground, could a bid protest stymie its efforts?

The Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) is almost five months old and already embroiled in its first bid protest.

OPM awarded Primus Solutions $117 million contract on Jan. 23 to provide investigative support services.

Two unsuccessful bidders submitted protests to the Government Accountability Office. Maximus Federal Services and Next Tier Concepts filed complaints with GAO on Feb. 13. Both companies are alleging OPM’s evaluation of their proposals was flawed.

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A Maximus spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on ongoing protests.

Emails to the attorney for Next Tier Concepts weren’t returned.

GAO has until May 24 to decide the case.

OPM received five bids, according to GovTribe, a government market research firm.

Under the solicitation, the NBIB wanted a vendor to provide some basic support services, including:

  • Switchboard operations and telephone liaison support for OPM’s customer agencies;
  • Screening and scheduling of investigations and investigative materials;
  • Case file maintenance;
  • Imaging and microfilm;
  • Post-closing support.

It’s unclear whether Next Tier Concepts is the incumbent or whether the NBIB is consolidating multiple contracts into a new one. But the company has provided the previous Federal Investigative Service, which OPM merged into the NBIB, similar services under a $18.5 million contract since 2011. In a Next Tier Concepts release from 2011, the company said it teamed with USIS to provide OPM similar support services since 1996. Of course, if you remember, USIS was mired in the background investigations scandal that proceeded the massive data breach.

OPM was unable to provide any comments on whether the protest would impact the NBIB’s operations.

The solicitation included several sections that were interesting in the wake of the problems OPM had with background investigations as well as the massive data breach it suffered.

One section in the request for proposals called for the winning vendor to develop, implement and modify the quality control process and OPM will periodically review that quality control process and report concerns.

OPM said the quality control process must include metrics to ensure integrity, quality and timeliness.

“The contractor’s integrity is the paramount requirement monitored by OPM,” the solicitation stated. “The contractor will strive to achieve a 100 percent integrity rating throughout the life of the contract.”

OPM says this includes no allegations of falsifications against contractor employees, no computer security violations, no facility security violations and no violations of the personally identifiable information (PII) policy.

While all of these metrics and requirements may have been in previous contracts, these sections seem more important now than ever before.

Another key data point: This contract is different from the one OPM awarded in September for conducting background investigations. Under the multiple-award contract, OPM was asking for outside investigators, while this contract is looking for in-house support for OPM employees.

The bid protest also comes as the NBIB is trying to dig out of a growing backlog of security clearances. In the Obama administration’s final report under the Performance.gov website in November, OPM said the current backlog of investigations stood at 343,557 unprocessed clearances at the secret level and 72,566 at the top secret level by the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2016. The backlog of periodic reinvestigations stood at 156,172.

OPM’s inspector general called the transition to the NBIB “the most significant institutional reorganization since OPM absorbed DoD’s background investigations unit, Defense Security Service, in 2005.”

Putting all these pieces together, it seems the NBIB is facing a tougher than expected time in getting off the starting line — and what’s unfortunate, not because of anything it did or didn’t do.

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