UPDATED: August 10, 2019 – OPM, known to others as the United States Office of Personnel Management conducts investigative services for more than 100 federal agencies, throughout the nation.
More than 90% of all government background investigations are conducted by this office. The nation’s security and well-being depends upon the accuracy and the reliability of the information obtained by this office.
Individuals applying for government and federal jobs are acquired by law, and Homeland Security to consent to, and pass a background clearance.
The entire investigation takes approximately 60 days to complete: 40 days is granted for the investigative process, and 20 days for the adjudicative process following the investigation.
The electronic questionnaire for central processing, also known as eQip is used to determine security clearance for high level positions in national, federal and government facilities.
The hiring agency authorizes the individual to access the system at http www.opm.gov e-qip, login and complete the application. The initial application takes several hours to complete.
High clearances are mandatory for:
• Government facilities
• Public trust
• Verifying identity
• National security
• Basic job suitability
Thorough and precise investigations are conducted on:
• Active military personnel
• Federal applicants and employees
• Government vendors or contractors
• Employees working in private sectors regulated by the government
The initial investigative background process begins, when an applicant is offered a position.
Before the prospective employee is officially hired, the hiring company waits for the outcome of the background. The first step of the investigation process begins with:
The Selection and Submission of the Form
The individual selected for a position requires a security clearance, based on the complexity or sensitivity of the position and/or job requirement.
Some agencies conduct security clearances on a need to know basis, or when an individual’s job requires access to classified information.
It is the hiring company that decides which level of security clearance is needed, and sends this request to the OPM.
An individual could be subjected to a psychological evaluation and a polygraph, based on the level of confidentiality required; top secret or confidential/secret.
The Official Investigation Process
The OPM conducts the official investigation using a variety of resources. An individual’s entire history is checked against the information listed on the application.
This includes verifying information with employers, law enforcements, educational institutions, and references.
Other types of information requiring verification include personal interviews with family, friends, former employees, school officials and others.
An individual applying for work with the FBI, CIA, State, Credit, DOD, OPM, or INS is subject national agency checks.
After the information is gathered, checked and verified, another investigation is conducted, the information reviewed, and the investigation is closed and documented, and the results are sent to the requesting agency.
Adjudication and Granted Clearance
At the stage of the investigation, the background check is completed and the final results are sent to the agency’s security office for further assessment.
The inquiring or sponsoring agency makes the ultimate decision of determining whether an individual is suited for employment and granted the required security clearance.
The decision is either interim or permanent. Depending on the position, an individual is reinvestigated every five, 10 or 15 years, after the acceptance of his or her initial employment.
In June of 2015, The Office of Personnel Management declared that it would be shutting down the e-quip system for 4-6 weeks due to security concerns.
At that point, they were still trying to understand the full extent of federal personnel records and information that had been compromised due to multiple intrusions.
Once further calculated, they found that the personal information of beyond 21 million people, who had background checks conducted by the government, was stolen by these hackers due to security holes in the e-quip system.
Among the information stolen were forms that applicants had filled out, describing in detail their past drug use, past relationships of a personal nature, history of their finances and full mental health history.
Not only was this breach a threat to national security, but it has become one of the largest online security breaches in history.
Shutting down these systems were absolutely necessary, but in doing so, the government also shut down the processing of annuity checks to retirees.
Summary and Conclusion
In 2009, the OPM completed nearly 650,000 investigations for initial security clearances. 90% were completed in 41 days, and 80% were completed in 36 days.
Requesting agencies are required to accept security clearances granted by other federal agencies.
New background checks are conducted when new security clearances are needed. As of now, all agencies, record or document the results of their security clearance results in the central databases.
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