Thursday, January 28, 2016

Google High

I just Googled myself. My LinkedIN page, this blog, my IMBD page and even my personal website came up on the first page. Same thing with Bing. Deeper in were links to my former workplaces and a bunch of other people who have the same name. I guess it’s something that I come up first, and dominate the first 2 pages of results. It’s been years since I’ve searched myself mostly because it seemed rather egotistical. It actually is a prudent thing to do since the first thing most of us do these days after meeting somebody is to Google/Bing them. Business acquaintances, romantic interests, job applicants all are easily pre-screened thanks to online search engines. Of course the information that’s out there is incomplete and not always reliable, but why should that stop anybody? There is a treasure trove of data for the taking. The U.S. Government in its inimitable wisdom has opted to create its own bureaucracy to check out people it might hire. 

The White House is creating a new agency to handle background checks. There were massive breaches of personal information and alleged hacking by the Chinese Government of the Office of Personnel last year. (“Cyber Incidents" according to the Obama Administration.) To remedy those issues a new federal entity will be formed. From the Press Release:
“Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) currently conducts investigations for over 100 Federal agencies – approximately 95 percent of the total background investigations government-wide – including more than 600,000 security clearance investigations and 400,000 suitability investigations each year. The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), which will assume this mission and absorb FIS.  NBIB will concentrate solely on providing effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government.”
The Department of Defense will run the infrastructure of the new agency, specifically providing technology solutions. There is a $95 million budget for Fiscal 2017.

With one million investigations a year and a budget of $95 million – simple math tells us that each background check costs $95. Kennect is one of the largest private agencies – and a full background check – including a seven-year criminal check, county courthouse verification and US terror watch search costs the same. Could this mean that the U.S. government is operating as efficiently as private industry?

Not so much. As Mediaite points out in their story, the Federal Government has had a difficult time hiring security experts. The difficulty in hiring individuals with cyber skills is reported by InformationWeek because of “rigid human resources policies.”

Motherboard is more succinct: “The FBI Says It Can't Find Hackers to Hire Because They All Smoke Pot.”

There’s a problem when the system for hiring people gets broken into by anybody, but especially a country like China which is not necessarily friendly to U.S. interests. To fix that problem high quality technical people are needed to remedy the situation. The United States is fortunate to have an incredible talent pool of technology geniuses. The Government can’t hire the best skilled people because the existing policies exclude individuals who fall outside of a strict code of conduct for actions that take place at home. The White House has opted instead to create a new bureaucracy and put the Defense Department in charge of it. The same department that hasn’t been able to pass an audit. Ever. In its entire existence. Remind me, who’s high? 

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