OPM reissues proposal to update suitability checks

Friday - 11/5/2010, 4:11pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management is clarifying its proposed rule detailing new requirements for agencies to run suitability checks on senior officials in public trust positions.

OPM initially issued the proposal Nov. 3, 2009, but after receiving comments, it found there was confusion over the scope of the reinvestigations.

Now a year later, OPM issued a new proposed rule on Friday asking for comments on the clarifying language to require employees in public trust positions-such as those in policy-making, major program responsibility, public safety and health, law enforcement duties and fiduciary responsibilities-be reinvestigated at least once every five years. Comments are due Dec. 6.

The rule would implement former President George Bush's January 2009 Executive Order requiring individuals in public trust positions be subject to reinvestigation under standards determined by OPM to ensure their continued employment is appropriate.

"While a reinvestigation typically will be more limited than the initial investigation, that reinvestigation must occur frequently if agencies are to carry out the purpose of the Executive order -- to ensure that continued employment of persons in public trust positions remains appropriate," the proposal states. "We are re-opening the comment period to specifically solicit comment on whether a periodic reinvestigation cycle of five or fewer years is appropriate, considering the risk posed by employment in public trust positions, and the availability of investigative and adjudicative resources based on the investigative product used to conduct the reinvestigations."

OPM Director John Berry issued guidance in September 2009 to help agencies implement other parts of the Executive Order.

In Friday's Federal Register notice, OPM proposed to conduct reinvestigations for non-sensitive, moderate-risk public trust positions using the National Agency Check with Local Agency Check and Credit Check (NACLAC). For non-sensitive, high-risk public trust positions, OPM suggested using the Periodic Reinvestigation (PRI).

"Both of these reinvestigations will be conducted using the Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions (SF-85P) Form," the proposed rule stated. "The reinvestigation may be expanded as necessary based upon information discovered during the investigation. Contingent on future investigative and resource capacities, OPM supplementary guidance will adjust investigative frequencies within this five-year period based on the level of trust (i.e., either moderate or high risk) associated with a person's position."

For employees who have access to classified information or hold a sensitive position, the proposed rule states that a national security investigation to determine a person's initial or continued eligibility also satisfies the five-year public trust reinvestigation requirement, as long as it is conducted at a level equal to or higher than the level required for his or her public trust reinvestigation.

Finally, the rule would require agencies to make an assessment of whether the results of the employee's inquiry require OPM to take any actions against the employee.

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