Fedweek

The form would contain a set of core questions required of all individuals undergoing a background investigation. Image: Elif Demiroz/Shutterstock.com

OPM has indicated that it intends to consolidate and revise forms used in vetting both current and prospective federal employees for purposes including suitability for employment and eligibility for new or renewed security clearances.

A Federal Register notice says that the proposed new “Personnel Vetting Questionnaire” will “streamline multiple existing information collections, as well as the renewal cycle for them, commensurate with on-going efforts to improve personnel vetting processes and the experience of individuals undergoing personnel vetting.”

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The form would replace the Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions (SF 85), the Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions and Supplemental Questionnaire for Selected Positions (SF 85P and SF 85P-S), and the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF 86).

The new form would be used “in conducting personnel vetting investigations for persons under consideration for, or retention in, low risk, public trust, and/or national security positions” as well as for “making trust determinations associated with an individual’s initial and ongoing suitability or fitness for federal employment, fitness for contract employment, eligibility to hold a sensitive position or for access to classified information, or eligibility for physical and logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems.”

The form would contain a set of core questions required of all individuals undergoing a background investigation; additional questions for nonsensitive public trust positions as well as sensitive positions; and further questions for sensitive positions. “Individual respondents will be asked to complete only the parts that are appropriate to the risk and sensitivity of their position, also known as their position designation, as directed by the federal agency requesting their background investigation,” the notice says.

It adds: “In comparison to the content of the current investigative questionnaires, the content of each part of the PVQ uses more plain language to collect information from the respondents and provides additional explanations to the respondents regarding the reasons for the questions.”

The basic section will have additional questions regarding use of IT systems and whether the respondent has “deliberately violated rules or regulations for safeguarding protected information.” Such information is “relevant to inform decisions regarding eligibility to be issued a federal personal identity credential permitting access to federal facilities and information systems,” it says.

Further, questions regarding past illegal drug use will “distinguish between use of marijuana or cannabis derivatives containing THC and use of other illegal drugs or controlled substances, in recognition of changing societal norms” and the decriminalization of marijuana by many states—even while it remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The Biden White House recently ordered a review of that classification.

Also, some questions regarding associations are to be added or modified “to reduce complexity and further compel candid responses.”

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The notice provides for a 60-day period for comment beginning with its publication November 23.

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