What is the public security clearance?

Government employment requires hiring responsible people for wise roles such as managing finances, overseeing processes, inspecting for compliance, and protecting people and assets, among others. While many government jobs do not require security clearance, some sensitive positions – often those for the protection of national security – require particularly competent and responsible employees. These positions are designated as Public confidence positions.

What is the public trust authorization?

Employer agencies determine risk designate the type of position: sensitive or not sensitive. The risk could reflect both national security concerns involving classified / sensitive information or unclassified activities. In both cases, different types of background investigations are conducted.

For non-national security posts, background investigations are suited to the level of risk associated with the position. For example, a designated position involves the protection of government funds. A misbehaving accountant or controller will bring some degree of risk in managing finances.

According to the SF 85P Questionnaire for Positions of Public Trust, a proper background investigation is necessary to determine suitability or eligibility to work in positions of public trust or sensitive. Applicants and those already in the positions should conduct an appropriate survey based on the sensitivity level of the position.

Managers work with human resources staff to identify, authorize and designate positions as national security and public trust positions. Then they send the appropriate inquiry request to the Bureau of Personnel Management (OPM) before but no later than 14 days after appointment to the post of public trust.

why positions of public trust are established

The following job descriptions are just a few examples of those requiring an OPM investigation for obvious reasons:

One of the most ubiquitous positions is the protection of government computer systems. Employees assigned to computer systems for their daily work may fall into this category.

Managers use the Job Designation of National Security and Public Trust Positions tool available at www.OPM.gov to determine the appropriate level of risk. The tool establishes the level of risk based on the potential impact on the service if the employee is unsuitable. When the position of public trust is outside of sensitive national security considerations (think CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, TOP SECRET), then they select the insensitive risk levels of low, moderate, and high.

Suitability criteria

You may already know the 13 criteria against which security clearances are judged. However, the relevance factors for the three risk levels are similar in scope, but not as detailed. They include the following eight criteria:

  • Misconduct or negligence in employment
  • Criminal or dishonest conduct
  • Material, intentional false declaration, deception or fraud during an examination or an appointment
  • Refusal to provide testimony as required for the investigation
  • Alcohol abuse of a nature and duration which suggests that the candidate or appointee would be prevented from performing the duties of the position in question or would pose a direct threat to the property or safety of others
  • Illegal use of narcotics, drugs or other controlled substances without proof of substantial rehabilitation
  • Conscious and deliberate engagement in acts or activities aimed at overthrowing the United States government by force
  • Any statutory or regulatory prohibition that prevents the lawful employment of the person involved in the position in question

Arbitration for unclassified positions always takes into account the “whole person“Concept. The considerations are:

  • THE NATURE OF THE POSITION for which the person is applying or in which he is employed (What will be the person’s responsibility? What is the part of supervision? What is not supervised. For example, the level of supervision may mitigate some of the risk. Conversely, limited supervision involves more risk.)
  • The nature and severity of the behavior
  • The circumstances surrounding the driving
  • Time to drive
  • Contribute to societal conditions
  • The absence or presence of rehabilitation or rehabilitation efforts

Types of background investigations

NATIONAL AGENCY VERIFICATION AND INVESTIGATIONS (NACI) Inquiry requests are submitted with SF 85 (Questionnaire for Non Sensitive Positions) Minimum Inquiry Required for Non-Sensitive / Low Risk Positions. The coverage includes:

  • Coverage of employment / self-employment / unemployment (5-year survey)
  • Education (5 years higher diploma – survey)
  • Residence (3 years – Request)
  • Reference contacts
  • Law enforcement Checks (5 years – Request)
  • National agency checks
    • Access to previous federal investigations by:
      • OPM Safety / Suitability Investigation Index (SII)
      • Defense Enabling and Investigations Index (DCII)
      • FBI name verification
    • FBI Criminal History Fingerprint Check
    • Credit research from national credit bureaus (optional)
    • Search military personnel files (if applicable)
    • Citizenship verification

MODERATE CONTEXT SURVEY (MBI) Requests for this survey are submitted with SF 85P (Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions) and are primarily conducted for Moderate Risk Public Trust (MRPT) positions. Coverage includes NACI requirements plus:

  • Reference contacts
  • Law enforcement audits (5 years – investigation and / or registration)
    • Credit research from national credit bureaus (7 years)

CONTEXT SURVEY (BI) Requests for this survey are submitted with SF 85P. BI is primarily conducted for high-risk positions of public trust. Coverage includes MBI requirements plus the following variables:

  • Interview with a personal subject
  • Education (2 years / diploma verification)
  • Residence (3 years)
  • Law enforcement monitoring (5 years)
  • National agency checks
    • National credit bureaus credit research

Positions of public trust require people with not only the right professional skills, but also a high degree of reliability. The agencies determine whether the positions are sensitive or not sensitive and if they are not, determine the level of risk low, moderate or high. The higher the level of risk, the more impact employee misconduct can have. Depending on the level of risk, an appropriate investigation is launched.

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