When your priorities include maintaining the security of the mail, you need to ensure that not just your employees, but also your contractors can be trusted. After all, the Postal Service engages thousands of contractors to help its workforce move the mail in various ways. One of which is handling mail at its Surface Transfer Centers (STC).
The Postal Service operates 13 STCs across the country, seven of which are managed solely by suppliers who employed more than 1,000 contractor personnel as of April 2021. USPS oversees STC operations, including the security clearance process, which is intended to prevent ineligible or unsuitable applicants from having access to the mail, Postal Service assets, and facilities.
So how good of a job is the Postal Service doing on reviewing and granting security clearances? As we note in our recent audit report, the answer is as complex as the security clearance process. The Postal Inspection Service reviews requests for clearances and determines whether they should be granted. But the STC supplier is responsible for conducting certain background investigation steps and submitting all findings. And the supplier is responsible for requesting the clearance before any of its personnel gain access to the mail.
We reviewed the clearance process for 169 randomly selected STC contractor personnel and found that in 130 cases — 77 percent — the full process wasn’t followed. USPS management didn’t always ensure that suppliers completed a security clearance before personnel were allowed to handle the mail. And, in other cases, the Postal Inspection Service had to complete security clearance steps the suppliers are responsible for, resulting in USPS incurring additional costs. Bottom line: the safety and security of USPS and other STC contractor personnel, as well as the mail and Postal Service information, could be at risk.
The good news is we made three recommendations to strengthen the security clearance process, and we’re confident USPS management’s plans for action in response will address the issues we identified.
Have you ever undergone a background check for work? What was the experience like?