Both trade and national publications have called for the head of the Office of Personnel Management to step down in the wake of the massive federal employee/retiree data breach. Yet, Administrator Laura Archueleta says “no one” is primarily responsible for the incident. Want to bet? Government contractor: YOU are the party that is most often held responsible when federal projects go wrong. Companies doing business with the government must understand that, regardless of how many people were involved, THEY are the ones who will be criticized, in all likelihood in a manner out of proportion to the role they actually played. Remember the Obama Care web site fiasco? There were as many people to blame for its failure as there were fingers to point. Yet, the contractor had its contract cancelled, had to explain itself multiple times before Congress, and took a drubbing in the press. When your firm does federal business, especially with high profile federal agencies like the VA, HHS, or certain DOD projects, you must take into account the “what if” factor. I.e., “what if” something goes wrong? Are we absolutely clear, on both industry and government sides, who is responsible for what? Do the task orders precisely match the original contract? Have unknown speed bumps been identified and thoroughly pointed out? These are but a few of the factors you can’t risk assuming have, or will be, taken care of. Take the time to make sure you know exactly what it is your company is getting into. The difference, quite literally, could mean the life or death of your firm. Just ask USIS, the firm formerly in charge of most OPM background checks. They’re now in bankruptcy and headed for dissolution.