The SF-86 Questionnaire is a 127 page questionnaire-form necessary for national security positions in the United States.
Your SF-86 Questionnaire is supposed to proceed through the system as shown below. Ninety percent of all cases are supposed to be completed in approximately 60 days. (40 days allotted for the Investigation Phase and 20 days for the Adjudication Phase.)
In reality, depending on the type and complexity of the security investigation requested, many cases take much longer than the targeted goal of 60 days.
Key Steps in FIS's Background Investigation Process
Submitting the SF-86
Your SF-86 Questionnaire needs to be checked and reviewed very carefully at this 1st stage. If your paperwork is accurate and complete, your investigative case can sail right through the system.
Conversely, if your paperwork is sloppy, inaccurate and incomplete, your case will take forever! Why? Because you were too lazy to fill out the forms correctly. Now you have created extra work for the case analysts and reviewers, investigators and adjudicators. Investigators can get a glimpse of what type of person you are just by merely looking at how you filled out your SF-86.
Scheduling and Initiation
Electronic record checks are conducted and the results are scanned or uploaded into the PIPS* system. Scannable inquiries are mailed out to sources as well.
PIPS automatically assigns case to a field office. The SAC will assign the case to an investigator(s.) The investigator(s) will have the results of your electronic record checks on hand during the course of your background investigation, including your personal Subject Interview.
*PIPS is a FISD computer software system containing 15 million background investigation records of federal employees, military personnel and contractors. The software is used for the automated entry, scheduling, case control and closing of background investigations. Reports of Investigation (ROI) are generated and managed through a function of PIPS called PIPS-R (reporting).
The investigator will conduct your personal Subject Interview. He/she will also interview your supervisors, co-workers, neighbors, friends and various other types of people.
The investigator will type up your case on his/her laptop and transmit the case through the PIPS system to FIPC in Boyers, PA.
When all of the investigative field work has been completed and transmitted to FIPC, your investigative report will be reviewed by a Case Reviewer. The Case Reviewer ensures that the investigative product meets all official and legal standards established by OPM.
If information is missing, the case is sent back to the investigators for correction. If your case is deemed complete, your report is sent to the requesting agency (your agency or prospective agency.)
Arguably, the most important part of the entire federal security clearance process. The professional careers and personal lives of individuals & their families are at stake. This is a very serious phase of the security clearance process and should not be taken lightly.
Everyone Adjudicate to the Same Standards
All executive branch CAFs adjudicate PSIs using the same national security standards, found in the Adjudication Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, which were issued pursuant to Executive Order 12968, “Access to Classified Information,” dated August 2, 1995. These national security adjudicative guidelines were revised in December 2005.
The 13 DOD Adjudicative Guidelines
- Allegiance to the United States
- Foreign Influence
- Foreign Preference
- Sexual Behavior
- Personal Conduct
- Financial Considerations
- Alcohol Consumption
- Drug Involvement
- Psychological Conditions
- Criminal Conduct
- Handling Protected Information
- Outside Activities
- Misuse of Information Technology
The 14 OPM Adjudicative Guidelines
- Criminal Behavior
- Disruptive or Violent Behavior
- Employment Misconduct
- Firearms or Weapons Offense
Each Guideline is comprised of three parts:
- The Concern
- The Concern is a simple statement that sets forth the concerns the security community has about each Adjudicative Guideline.
- Potentially Disqualifying Conditions
- The Potentially Disqualifying Conditions are conditions that, if present in the applicant’s life, may potentially disqualify him or her for eligibility or access.
- Mitigating Factors
- The Mitigating Factors are used by adjudicators to balance against the Potentially Disqualifying Conditions. The Mitigating Factors consist of conditions that, if present in the applicant’s life, may cancel or lessen the severity of the Potentially Disqualifying Conditions.
All federal agencies that grant eligibility to classified information must recognize and accept investigations and security eligibilities carried out by other branches of the federal government – provided those investigations meet the scope and standards required for the new position. Reciprocity applies to all civilian employees of the federal government, members of the military and contractors. Not only is reciprocity required by government policy, but it can save significant time and money. People will be able to start their new jobs right away and their new agencies won’t waste taxpayer dollars carrying out costly and unnecessary investigations.
For reciprocity to apply, an individual’s new position cannot require a higher eligibility than he or she currently possesses. In addition, the date of the individual’s last investigation must fall within the required timeline and the existing eligibility must not have been granted on an interim or temporary basis, or by condition, deviation or waiver. Finally, if the position has Special Access Program, or SAP requirements, the eligibility may be accepted reciprocally, but the specific program may not be able to grant SAP access. Several policies provide more specific guidance on reciprocity within the DoD. Reciprocity for DoD Employees is outlined in DoD 5200.2-R and reciprocity for DoD Contractors is described in DoD 5220.22-M (the NISPOM).
DoD Employees: Personnel Security Investigations for DoD employees must be accepted reciprocally as long as the investigation is within scope and the employee doesn’t have a break in Military Service or Federal employment longer than 24 months.
DoD Contractors : For contractor employees, preexisting Personnel Security Clearances or PCLs, must be accepted, provided the investigation for the PCL meets or exceeds the scope requirements for the new position, there is no new derogatory information about the employee and eligibility was granted without condition, deviation or waiver.
In addition to classified access eligibility, reciprocity also applies to both Common Access Card or CAC credentialing and to Suitability adjudications. As established by E.O. 13467, previous suitability determinations must be accepted reciprocally, as long as they meet or exceed the suitability requirements of the new position. Requests for reciprocal acceptance of eligibility are processed at the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility or DOD CAF. Reciprocity requests are usually processed within two days. Eligibility Determinations for DoD employees should also be accepted, as long as there is no new derogatory information about the employee and eligibility was granted without condition, deviation, or waiver.
Remember, reciprocity is not just a suggestion – it is a requirement outlined in numerous government policies including several Executive Orders, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Director of National Intelligence Memorandum, “Executive Order 13467 and Reciprocal Recognition of Existing Personnel Security Clearances,” and other policy guidance.
E.O. 12968: “Access To Classified Information” (7 August 1995) Defines conditions where reciprocity must be practiced and conditions that allow for the denial of reciprocity. IRTPA: Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) (17 December 2004) Establishes guidelines for reciprocity and requires reciprocity between government agencies. E.O. 13467: “Reforming Processes Related to Suitability for Government Employment, Fitness for Contractor Employees, and Eligibility for Access to Classified National Security Information” (2 July 2008) Ensures alignment of security and suitability investigative and adjudicative processes.
DNI Memo: Director of National Intelligence Memorandum “Executive Order 13467 and Reciprocal Recognition of Existing Personnel Security Clearances” (1 October 2008) Streamlines and emphasizes processes that ensure the reciprocity of security clearances. E.O. 13488: “Granting Reciprocity on Excepted Service and Federal Contractor Employee Fitness and Reinvestigating Individuals in Positions of Public Trust” (16 January 2009) Aligns reciprocity between Security Clearance determinations and Public Trust determinations. Additional Policy Guidance:
- OMB Memoranda to Executive Departments and Agencies: “Reciprocal Recognition of Existing Personnel Security Clearances” (12 December 2005, 17 July 2006, and 14 November 2007)