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United States Civil Service Commission Letter 731-5
SFederal Personnel Manual System blhed in advance
FPM Letter 731-5 incorporation FPM
pters 731 and 736
SUBJECT: New Procedures in Evaluating the SuitabilX of / T UNTIL SUPERSEDED
Persons Entering the Federal Competiti p ofE UNTIL SUPERSEDED
Service The Advance Editio At
2/21/80 Washington, D. C. 204115
Heads of Departments and Independent Establishments: arch 6 1980
1. This Letter provides notice of new procedures in evaluating the suitability of
applicants for and appointees to positions in the Federal competitive service.
The new procedures, effective April 1, 1980, are part of an overall effort by the
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to streamline the staffing process Government-
wide. The changes in the appointee rating program also reflects the OPM's ongoing
policy of providing agencies with increased decision-making responsibility consis-
tent with the philosophy and intent of the Civil Service Reform Act.
2. Agencies are requested to review the new procedures and forward any comments to
the Office of Personnel Management, Staffing Services Group, Division of Personnel
Investigations, Washington, D. C. 20415, by March 17, 1980. A set of questions
and answers are attached to help explain, and thereby facilitate comments on the
new procedures. Agencies will be notified of any changes resulting from the comments.
3. Except for actions in connection with critical-sensitive positions, and as
otherwise delegated by agreement with agencies, the OPM currently has primary
responsibility for determining the suitability of applicants for and appointees
S to positions in the competitive service. The OPM may deny an applicant examination,
and instruct an agency to remove an appointee under Part 731, Title 5, of the Code of
4. Suitability decisions on applicants are made by the OPM primarily during the
application and certification stages of the examining process. The OPM's review of
the application and related material may include limited investigation as required
to resolve specific suitability issues, before an applicant is placed on a register
or an eligible is certified to an agency. The OPM also makes final suitability
decisions on agency objections to and passovers of eligibles certified by the OPM
to the agency.
5. The OPM's suitability rating authority extends to competitive service appointees
essentially during the first year of appointment. National Agency Check and Inquiry
(NACI) investigations conducted by the OPM on appointees are sent directly to the
employing agency for a determination of continued employment, unless the NACT discloses
materially derogatory information involving an appointee in the competitive service.
These cases are reviewed by the OPM for decision on the appointee's suitability for
continued Federal employment before referral of the investigative material to the
employing agency. The OPM's review frequently involves additional investigation to
resolve the suitability issues) disclosed by the NACI before a decision with respect
to suitability is made.
hIquiries: Division of Personnel Investigations, Staffing Services, extension 632-6152
CSC Code: 731, Suitability
FPM Ltr. 731-5 (2) ,
New Procedure Applicants
6. The OPM will continue to make final suitability decisions on applicants except
where delegated to agencies by agreement. The only change in current procedure is
in the OPM's investigative process.
7. Applications containing adverse suitability information will be referred to the
OPM's Division of Personnel Investigations (DPI), Investigations Evaluation Brancfi
(IEB) for initial review for fitness. Applications which are determined to be
"acceptable" will be returned immediately to the appropriate examining office.
Applications which contain potentially disqualifying suitability information will be :i
subject to the following new procedure.
8. The application will be returned to the applicant by the IEB with Standard i
Form 85, Data for Nonsensitive and Noncritical-Sensitive Position; Standard Form 87,
Fingerprint Chart; and OEM Form 329-A, Authority for Release of Information. The
applicant will be advised that the SF 85, SF 87 and OPM 329-A must be completed and
returned with the application to the IEB within a specified period of time from the
date of the notice to the applicant. Applications of persons failing to respond to
the IEB's request within the prescribed period of time will receive no further
9. Applications and investigative data forms returned to the IEB within the prescribed
period of time will be forwarded by the IEB to the NACI Center with request for NACI
investigation. The NACI Center will conduct the NACI, and schedule additional
limited investigation as required to ensure accuracy and completeness of the informa-
tion developed by the NACI. Cases involving a material question of suitability will
be referred by the NACI Center to the IEB for a determination of eligibility. The
Division may conduct further investigation as necessary in making its determination.
Cases containing loyalty information will continue to be referred to the FBI before
a determination is made. All applications returned by the NACI Center and the IEB
to the examining office will be stamped "Investigation meeting requirements of
E.O. 10450, conducted under 5 USC 3301 (date) ." Results of the investigation
will be retained by the OPM in accordance with established retention schedules and
made available to employing agencies upon request to the Office of Personnel
Management, Division of Personnel Investigations, Washington, D. C. 20415.
New Procedure Appointees
10. The OPM will no longer routinely expand the NACI to a personal investigation when
the NACI develops suitability information, except when additional investigation is
necessary to ensure accuracy and completeness. In addition, the OPM will cease
evaluating suitability information developed in these cases. The effect of the change
is to place primary responsibility for making retention decisions in appointments to
nonsensitive and noncritical-sensitive positions with the employing agency. Agencies
exercise this responsibility now in appointments to critical-sensitive positions.
11. Under the new procedure, information developed during the course of each NACI and
any additional investigation conducted by OPM will be forwarded directly to the
employing agency for its consideration in a determination of the appointee's continued
employment at that agency. Applications returned to the agency with results of
investigation will be stamped "Investigation under E.O. 10450 (date) ."
12. Agencies may conduct additional investigation to resolve potentially adverse issues
disclosed by the NACI, or request such investigation on a reimbursable basis by the OPM.
The current billing rate for additional investigation by the OPM is $390.00. Results of
the additional investigation by the OPM will be furnished directly to the employing
FPM Ltr. 731- 5 (3)
agency for use in the agency's determination of the appointee's continued employment.
The OPM will provide an advisory opinion on a nonreimbursable basis in individual
cases based on the results of additional investigation only upon request by the
agency. Request for additional investigation and/or advisory opinion must be made in
writing to the Office of Personnel Management, Division of Personnel Investigations,
Washington, D. C. 20415.
13. NACI cases containing loyalty information will be referred directly to the FBI by
the OPM. The employing agency will be forwarded a copy of the FBI investigation, if
any, by the OPM. As in suitability cases, the agency will have the responsibility for
making the retention decision. Request for an advisory opinion by the OPM may be made
as outlined in the preceding paragraph.
14. Agency actions under the new procedure will be monitored by the OPM through
periodic audits. The OPM reserves the right to take action under Part 731 in
individual appointee cases as warranted.
15. The Federal Personnel Manual will be revised as appropriate to reflect the
above procedural changes.
By direction of the Director:
Jule M. Sugarman
Attachment to FPM Ltr. 731- 5
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE NEW ..
PROCEDURES IN EVALUATING
SUITABILITY FOR THE FEDERAL
In simplest terms, what changes are being made in the present suitability
Applicants: The only real change in the applicant program will be the
OPM's use of the NACI as a mechanism for screening applicants during
the initial stages of fitness review. Rather than directly schedule
an often lengthy investigation into the issues) indicated on the
application, the OPM will go "up-front" to applicants with potentially
serious suitability problems and ask them to complete the papers i
necessary to initiate a NACI.
Appointees: The OPM will no longer evaluate the suitability of appointees, i
This will become the sole responsibility of the employing agency. Results .....
of the NACI and any additional investigation to ensure accuracy and
completeness will be sent by the OPM to the employing agency for consider-
ation in an employment determination. The agency could make further
inquiries as necessary, or request the OPM to conduct further investigation
on a reimbursable basis before a determination is made.
Why were the new procedures developed?
There are two broad reasons: (1) to improve the efficiency of the staffing
process Government-wide, and (2) in the case of appointees, to provide
agencies with increased decision-making authority consistent with the
philosophy and intent of the Civil Service Reform Act.
What specifically are the advantages of the new procedures?
Applicants: The new procedure, in addition to providing the applicant with
advance notice that a potential suitability problem exists, should also
significantly streamline the review and rating process. It is expected
that no more than 1,000 applications (out of an estimated 6,000 receivedyearly
for review from examining offices) will involve actual NACI investigation.
Appointees: By providing employing agencies with sole responsibility
for making employment determinations on appointees, the OPM will be
eliminating the dual jurisdiction which has subjected the appointee to
two employment determinations for the same job--one by the OPM and
another by the agency. The new procedures should allow the agency to
make more timely employment decisions. It is also felt that the
agency is in a better position than the OPM to evaluate investigative
information in terms of job and staffing requirements, effect of the
conduct on co-workers and other localized factors. To assist agencies
in making a decision, the OPM will expand the NACI to a limited personal
investigation in individual cases as required (at no cost to the agency)
to ensure that the investigative information serving as a basis for the
agency's decision is as complete as possible.
.LIieL -LU o1T1 Lr-.I- i 1----....Jl .
Q.4. Will the personal investigation conducted as part of the expanded NACI
differ in any way from the limited suitability investigations previously
conducted by the OPM in serious suitability cases?
A.4. Yes. The NACI will be expanded to a personal investigation when necessary
to fully develop a specific issue to ensure accuracy and completeness of
the investigative information furnished to the agency.
Example: A NACI source reports that the person investigated
was fired by a previous employer for theft. Additional
investigation would be conducted as necessary at the place
of employment to verify the firing and fully establish the
reasons for the employer's action.
The above investigation differs from the limited suitability investigation
previously conducted by the OPM in that the latter was designed to establish
current employability or the relationship ("nexus") between the theft and
the specific job employed in. Under the new procedures, additional
investigation to establish current employability may be conducted by the
agency or on a reimbursable basis by the OPM.
Q.5. Will the new procedures have any adverse impact on agency operations?
A.5. Applicants: The change in the applicant program is an internal
improvement by the OPM which should have no impact on agency operations
other than the probable advantage of more timely suitability decisions
in many cases.
Appointees: The impact on agencies of the OPM's decision to discontinue
rating appointee cases should be minimal. It is expected that most
agencies would continue to make employment decisions utilizing the rating
expertise already available within the agency. The OPM's adjudicative
and appraisal staff, however, will be available to provide agencies with
program guidance as needed. The OPM will also render an advisory
opinion (at no cost to the agency) in individual cases when requested
to do so by the agency.
Some additional cost will probably be incurred by agencies in conducting
additional investigation in serious cases to establish current employability.
This cost should not be too significant. The expanded NACI should eliminate
the need for further investigation in many cases. It is expected that no
more than 400 cases Government-wide each year will require investigation
beyond that initially conducted by the OPM.
Many agencies already conduct inquiries beyond the completed NACI. A
number of the larger agencies have a trained staff of investigators
which can be used to conduct limited suitability investigations. In
view of the above capabilities and the limited number of cases which
will require additional investigation, the need for requesting a
reimbursable investigation by the OPM should be minimal (probably
considerably less than 200 requests a year). The billing rate for
such investigation ($390.00) will be substantially less than the
actual investigative cost incurred by the OPM which is prepared to
absorb the difference in the interest of providing agencies without
investigative facilities a relatively low cost investigative product.
U.S GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1980- 311-539"136
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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