Hewlett-Packard fired solution provider The Experts, which employed the former Navy reservist responsible for killing 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, where the subcontractor was providing work on behalf of the vendor.
In a letter to Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts, HP said it has "lost confidence" in the company to carry out a multimillion-dollar technology services contract with the U.S. Navy. The Experts became the focus of attention following the shooting rampage because it employed Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old veteran who carried out the attack.
"HP has strict policies in place that require contractors and their employees to adhere to the highest standards of business practices and ethics," an HP spokesperson told CRN. "Based on what we now know about The Experts' conduct, including its failure to respond appropriately to Aaron Alexis' mental health issues and certain incidents recently reported in the press, HP has terminated its relationship with The Experts."
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company issued a statement following the incident indicating that it was fully cooperating with the FBI and other authorities.
In the statement, The Experts said it had hired a service to perform two background checks on Alexis. He had been employed with The Experts for six months over the past year, the company said, adding that his security clearance, confirmed in June, revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation.
A spokesperson at The Experts told CRN that the firm would focus on serving its existing and new customers and cooperate fully in bringing about a smooth transition.
"The Experts is disappointed in HP’s decision as we have continued to meet all of our contractual obligations," the firm said in a statement. "The Experts had no greater insight into Alexis’ mental health than HP, particularly given that an H-P site manager closely supervised him, including during the events in Rhode Island."
President Obama has ordered a review of the government security clearance process, and experts say the move could impact public sector solution providers that rely on skilled employees with security clearances to carry out IT contracts. Systems integrators and other subcontractors that carry out government contracts on behalf of large vendors told CRN that they expect the Navy Yard shooting to lead to changes in how IT contractors are approved and allowed to access military bases and other government facilities.
Security experts told CRN that intense scrutiny on government security clearances became an issue for contractors following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The government made obtaining a clearance much more stringent, ultimately creating a five-year backlog on security clearances and making it difficult for solution providers to do business in the public sector.
"Because of the pare-back the government couldn't get people into seats fast enough to get the work done," said Carson Sweet, a military veteran and co-founder and CEO of security and compliance vendor CloudPassage. "There might be a huge amount of resistance to any enormous amounts of change if they can't get clearances done quickly enough."
Sweet said the government addressed the backlog, streamlining its clearance processes to improve turnaround times. He said the problem amounts to a big data automation issue that might be better addressed with strong analytics capabilities.
Career experts told CRN that common problems in conducting background investigations and vetting employees by hiring managers lead to internal threats and other potential problems. Three-quarters of the federal government's background checks are conducted by third-party agencies. USIS, the private company that was contracted to perform the 2007 background check on Alexis, is under criminal investigation, according to The Washington Post, which said the government was looking into the thoroughness of the investigations.
Lee J. Kushner, founder and CEO of L. J. Kushner and Associates, which specializes in recruiting information security professionals, said a proper vetting involves more than reviewing an individual's resume, certifications and other credentials. A thorough check requires getting to know the individual, their past job performance and how they approach real-world problems, he said.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 26, 2013