[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 161 (Monday, August 20, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 50175-50184]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-20379]


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OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT


Submission for Review: Information Collection 3206-NEW; 
Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions (SF 85P) and Supplemental 
Questionnaire for Selected Positions (SF 85P-S)

AGENCY: U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

ACTION: 30-Day Notice and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: Federal Investigative Services (FIS), U.S. Office of Personnel 
Management (OPM) offers the general public and other federal agencies 
the opportunity to comment on an information collection request (ICR), 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Control No. 3206-NEW, for 
Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, Standard Form 85P (SF 85P) 
and Supplemental Questionnaire for Selected Positions, Standard Form SF 
85P-S (SF 85P-S). As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 
(Pub. L. 104-13, 44 U.S.C. chapter 35) as amended by the Clinger-Cohen 
Act (Pub. L. 104-106), OPM is soliciting comments for this collection. 
The Office of Management and Budget is particularly interested in 
comments that:
    1. Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is 
necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility;
    2. Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of 
the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the 
methodology and assumptions used;
    3. Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to 
be collected; and
    4. Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those 
who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic 
submissions of responses.

DATES: Comments are encouraged and will be accepted until September 19, 
2012. This process is conducted in accordance with 5 CFR 1320.1.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments on 
the proposed information collection to the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, 725 17th Street 
NW., Room 10235, Washington, DC 20503, Attention: Jasmeet K. Seehra, 
OMB Desk Officer or sent via electronic mail to oira_submission@omb.eop.gov or faxed to (202) 395-6974; and Federal 
Investigative Services, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E. 
Street NW., Washington, DC 20415, Attention: Lisa Loss or sent via 
electronic mail to FISFormsComments@opm.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: A copy of this ICR, with applicable 
supporting documentation, may be obtained by contacting the Federal 
Investigative Services, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E. 
Street NW., Washington, DC 20415, Attention: Lisa Loss or sent via 
electronic mail to FISFormsComments@opm.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice announces that OPM submitted to 
OMB a request for review and clearance of the revised information 
collection of information, Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, SF 
85P and Supplemental Questionnaire for Selected Positions, SF 85P-S, 
which are housed in a system named e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaires for 
Investigative Processing) and are information collections completed by 
applicants for, or incumbents of, Federal Civilian Government 
positions, or positions in private entities performing work for the 
Government under contract. The collections are used as the basis of 
information for background investigations to establish that such 
persons are: Suitable for appointment to or retention in Federal 
employment in a public trust position; fit for employment or retention 
in Federal employment in the excepted service when the duties to be 
performed are equivalent in degree of trust reposed in the incumbent to 
a public trust position; fit to perform work on behalf of the Federal 
Government pursuant to a Government contract, when the duties to be 
performed are equivalent in degree of trust reposed in the individual 
to a public trust position; or eligible for physical and logical access 
to federally controlled facilities or information systems, when the 
duties to be performed by the individual are equivalent to the duties 
performed by an employee in a public trust position. For applicants, 
the SF 85P and SF 85P-S are to be used only after a conditional offer 
of employment has been made. The SF 85P-S is supplemental to the SF 85P 
and is used only as approved by OPM, for certain positions such as 
those requiring carrying of a firearm.
    It is estimated that the total number of respondents for the SF 85P 
is 112,894 annually. The electronic application includes branching 
questions and instructions which provide for a tailored collection from 
the respondent based on varying factors in the respondent's personal 
history. The burden on the respondent will vary depending upon how the 
information collected relates to the respondent's personal history. In 
an empirical study, the median of participant time spent completing the 
SF 85P was 155 minutes. Accordingly, OPM estimates that the annual 
burden is 141,118 hours. It is estimated that the total number of 
respondents for the SF 85P-S is 11,717 annually. Each SF 85P-S form 
takes an estimated 10 minutes to complete. Accordingly, the estimated 
annual burden is 1,953 hours. e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaires for 
Investigations Processing) is a web-based system application that 
houses the SF 85P and SF 85P-S. This internet data collection tool 
provides faster processing time and immediate data validation to ensure 
accuracy of the respondent's personal information. The e-Government 
initiative mandates that agencies utilize e-QIP for all investigations 
and reinvestigations. A variable in assessing burden hours is the 
nature of the electronic application. The electronic application 
includes branching questions and instructions which provide for a 
tailored collection from the respondent based on varying factors in the 
respondent's personal history. Because the question branches, or 
expands for additional details, only for those persons who have 
indicated, by their previous answers, that a particular topic is 
relevant to them, the burden on the respondent is reduced when the 
respondent's personal history demonstrates that he or she has no 
pertinent information to provide regarding that line of questioning.

[[Page 50176]]

Accordingly, the burden on the respondent will vary depending on 
whether particular segments of the information collection relate to the 
respondent's personal history. Additionally, once entered, a 
respondent's complete and certified investigative data remains secured 
in the e-QIP system until the next time the respondent is sponsored by 
an agency to complete a new investigative form. Upon initiation, the 
respondent's previously entered data (except ``yes/no'' questions) will 
populate a new investigative request. The respondent will be allowed to 
update his or her information, and certify the data, but will need to 
revise only the information that has changed. In this instance, time to 
complete the form is reduced significantly.
    The 60-day notice of the proposed information collection was 
published in the Federal Register on December 29, 2010 (Federal 
Register Notices/Volume 75, Number 249, page 82095-82097) as required 
by 5 CFR 1320, affording the public an opportunity to comment on the 
form(s). Comments were received from the Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission (EEOC), Internal Revenue Service Personnel Security (IRS-
PS), the Department of Homeland Security Office of Security (DHS-OS), 
the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Human Resources community (OSD-
HR), and commenters from the Department of Justice, Treasury, and OPM. 
Two employee unions, the American Federation of Government Employees 
(AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), submitted 
comments.
    EEOC provided comments which, EEOC stated, were from the 
perspective of the federal agency enforcing the equal employment 
opportunity (EEO) laws for the federal and private sectors, with a 
particular focus, in this instance, on Section 501 of the 
Rehabilitation Act, as amended (Section 501), and Title VII of the 
Civil Rights Act, as amended (Title VII).
    EEOC commented that Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act restricts 
federal employers as to the circumstances under which they may make 
``disability-related inquiries'' of applicants and employees. In EEOC's 
view, disability-related and non-disability-related inquiries are 
intertwined in sections 21 and 22 of the SF 85P, and therefore both 
sections are subject to Section 501's restrictions. EEOC commented that 
OPM should direct agencies to ask these questions (Section 21 ``Illegal 
Use of Drugs and Drug Activity,'' and Section 22 ``Use of Alcohol,'' 
only when Section 501 permits. EEOC recommended that OPM add language 
to the instructions for the SF 85P that previously existed on the SF 
85P-S, stating that Federal departments and agencies may pose 
disability-related inquiries to applicants only after an offer has been 
made, and to employees only under circumstances that are job related 
and consistent with business necessity. EEOC further recommended that 
OPM insert specific instructions about Section 501 at the beginning of 
the SF 85P, cross-referencing sections 21 and 22. OPM did not accept 
EEOC's recommendation. The instructions on the SF 85P already state 
that, ``for applicants, the form is to be used only after a conditional 
offer of employment has been made.'' Therefore, Section 501 has already 
been properly addressed. OPM has clearly indicated the types of 
decision-making that the SF 85P supports, and as noted above, the 
information collection regarding illegal use of drugs, drug activity, 
and use of alcohol is necessary for the determinations the form 
supports.
    EEOC acknowledged that federal agency employers need tools, such as 
the SF 85P, that allow them to collect complete information about the 
disposition of all arrests, charges, and other criminal proceedings in 
an applicant's background. EEOC stated it was unclear whether OPM 
intended its inquiry to encompass the disposition of all arrests, of 
all charges, and of all trials.
    The collection of disposition information is indeed required for 
the arrests and charges that the form collects. The branching questions 
of the collection permit the respondent to provide relevant 
information, including circumstances and outcomes. The collection is 
tailored to specific timeframes, and OPM uses the information provided 
to obtain further information on dispositions, if necessary. 
Accordingly, by the time the agency has the background investigation 
before it, and is ready to adjudicate suitability, fitness, or 
eligibility, it should have disposition information before it in the 
record.
    EEOC commented that OPM should educate federal employers about how 
to assess suitability for federal or contract employment when 
evaluating an applicant's police record. Although this comment appears 
to be out of the scope of commenting on the information collection, OPM 
responds that it agrees with the EEOC and does indeed already provide 
such guidance in the suitability. OPM is not responsible for 
establishing standards for fitness inquiries concerning employees of 
contractors.
    EEOC recommended eliminating or significantly restricting the scope 
of section 24, Financial Record, due to concerns that the inquiries 
could result in discriminatory uses of the requested information. It 
recommended that if OPM retains the section, or portions thereof, it 
should adopt explicit, objective guidelines for using the requested 
information, which at a minimum should require the decision-maker to 
determine and consider the background circumstances that led to the 
reported financial problems when deciding whether to hold them against 
the applicant. EEOC recommended open text fields to collect the 
information. OPM did not accept EEOC's recommendation to eliminate or 
significantly restrict the scope of section 24. OPM does already 
provide guidance to agencies regarding the appropriate use of 
information about financial issues in making suitability determinations 
using this form and what other circumstances, such as societal factors, 
should be considered in the analysis. Further, the proposed collection 
does include free text fields for the respondent to provide the 
circumstances surrounding the indebtedness and actions taken in regard 
to it.
    IRS-PS stated that IRS agrees with the changes as presented. DHS-OS 
stated that DHS approves of the additional questions and expanded 
collection of information, particularly in regards to Section 21, 
Illegal Use of Drugs and Drug Activity, as it will assist DHS in the 
goal of a drug-free workplace. A commenter from the Department of 
Justice provided a favorable view regarding the proposed form, stating 
that the additions will greatly benefit personnel security programs in 
their adjudications. The commenter stated that the form asks for 
information that is pertinent and relevant to suitability 
determinations and fitness evaluations for contractors.
    DHS-OS made suggestions to replace references to ``eligibility'' 
with ``suitability'' in the instruction pages of the form. These 
comments were not accepted because the form supports eligibility for 
physical and logical access to federally controlled facilities or 
information systems (when the duties to be performed are equivalent in 
degree of trust reposed in the incumbent to a public trust position) as 
well as suitability determinations. DHS-OS also suggested strengthening 
the advice regarding delays that occur as a result of credit freezes. 
This comment was accepted.
    DHS-OS recommended that the questions posed in Section 13C, 
Employment Record, should be asked of all persons who have ever had 
federal

[[Page 50177]]

service, not merely those who have been in the federal service in the 
last seven years. This comment was not accepted, because OPM has 
concluded, based upon experience, that the questions on the form are 
sufficient to identify the conduct that would be relevant, in light of 
recency and other factors.
    DHS-OS recommended that the criminal conviction questions ask if 
the individual has ``ever'' been convicted of any crime in civilian 
courts or in military courts martial, which would require a change to 
sections 15 and 20. DHS reasons that some convictions would warrant a 
negative suitability finding by a law enforcement agency irrespective 
of the age of the conviction. This recommendation was not accepted. OPM 
believes that requiring respondents to provide all criminal convictions 
regardless of age would result in an increased collection of 
information from respondents that would be unduly burdensome in light 
of the broad spectrum of offenses that would be reported and the 
diminished likelihood that offenses more than seven years old would 
warrant a negative suitability finding. Furthermore, the form already 
includes questions that would collect information necessary to 
determine eligibility for certain law enforcement positions in regard 
to the Lautenberg Amendment, and the investigation includes a check of 
the criminal history records on file with the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation and local law enforcement agencies to obtain a complete 
picture of the respondent's criminal history.
    DHS-OS recommended that the Fair Credit Reporting Act Release 
specify a timeframe of five years. This recommendation was not accepted 
as a timeframe is not required.
    A commenter from DOJ recommended that the form be modified so that 
``I don't know'' is not an option regarding Selective Service Record. 
This recommendation was not accepted as it is possible that the SF 85P 
will be completed by someone without access to the internet to easily 
locate the information. Additionally, an explanation is required if ``I 
don't know'' is selected. The commenter similarly commented that ``I 
don't know'' should not be an acceptable answer when providing contact 
information for People Who Know You Well. This comment was not 
accepted. Although it is expected that most respondents will be able to 
provide contact information, it is OPM's experience that, in rare 
circumstances, this option is necessary. DOJ also provided a comment 
that other areas of the form should have an ``I don't know'' option for 
information that could be difficult to provide. The form was not 
modified in response to this comment as the electronic platform of the 
questionnaire will allow an explanatory remark in ``Additional 
Comments'' at each section.
    DOJ observed that the question regarding Illegal Use of Drugs, 
which was moved to the SF 85P from the SF 85P-S, previously allowed an 
exception for use prior to the age of 16. DOJ inquired whether this 
exception was intentionally omitted. The exception is not incorporated 
because OPM believes, based upon its experience, that conduct 
information before the age of 16 can be relevant, depending on the 
respondent's age and subsequent conduct.
    A commenter from OSD-HR recommended that the section ``Purpose of 
this Form'' include a statement that the questionnaire shall not be 
used for National Security Sensitive position determinations. 
Similarly, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) 
commented that OPM should clarify the distinction between the forms SF 
85P and SF 85P-S and the form SF 86, as well as provide greater 
guidance as to when the completion of a particular form should be 
required. OPM accepted these comments and has added the statement 
suggested by OSDHR to the proposed questionnaire.
    OSD-HR recommended that the instructions explain that after a 
suitability determination is made, the respondent may also be subject 
to continuous evaluation, which may include periodic reinvestigations 
to ensure continuing suitability for employment. This comment was not 
accepted. OSD-HR also stated that personnel in public trust positions 
should be subject to continuous evaluation, and the Investigative 
Process block and the Authorization for Release of Information should 
be amended to so state. This comment also was not accepted. Pursuant to 
Executive Order 13467, ```[c]ontinuous evaluation' means reviewing the 
background of an individual who has been determined to be eligible for 
access to classified information (including additional or new checks of 
commercial databases, Government databases, and other information 
lawfully available to security officials) at any time during the period 
of eligibility to determine whether that individual continues to meet 
the requirements for eligibility for access to classified 
information.'' E.O. 13467, sec. 1.3(d). Individuals in that 
circumstance would be filling out an SF 86, not an SF 85P. The 
President dealt with incumbent public trust employees in Executive 
Order 13488. E.O. 13488 states that ``[i]ndividuals in positions of 
public trust shall be subject to reinvestigation under standards 
(including but not limited to the frequency of such reinvestigation) as 
determined by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management * * 
*'' Pursuant to that Order, OPM promulgated 5 CFR 731.106(d), which 
provides that public trust employees must be reinvestigated at least 
every five years. A reinvestigation of a public trust employee with no 
access to classified information would be similar to the investigation 
the employee underwent at the time of appointment to the public trust 
position, and would not be the same as what is meant by continuous 
evaluation.
    OSD-HR recommended that the Personal Interview area of the 
instructions should include reference to garnishments, tax warrants, 
and foreclosures as documentation regarding these may be required. This 
recommendation was not accepted because ``other financial obligations'' 
is a broad category that implicitly includes these areas, particularly 
since there are direct questions about garnishments, tax liens, and 
foreclosures in the financial record section.
    OSD-HR recommended that ``certificates'' should be added to the 
types of educational awards required to be listed. This comment was not 
accepted because, although certificates may be received in connection 
with educational activities, compelling the listing of all certificates 
in this section would likely compel irrelevant information, given the 
vast array of educational certificate opportunities (e.g. cake 
decorating).
    OSD-HR recommended that Section 13C define the term misconduct and 
provided a suggested definition. This recommendation was not accepted 
because misconduct is a commonly understood term. Also in Section 13C, 
OSD-HR recommended adding the word ``otherwise'' between ``or'' and 
``disciplined'' as written, it may appear that official reprimands, 
etc. are not forms of discipline. This recommendation was not accepted 
as it is not necessary to capture the desired information.
    OSD-HR recommended that non-appropriated fund applicants/employees 
be excluded from completing Section 14, Selective Service. This 
recommendation was not accepted as it would be more confusing to compel 
applicants to distinguish between NAF positions and other positions. 
OPM will provide guidance to assist agencies in using the information 
properly for decision-making.

[[Page 50178]]

    OSD-HR recommended that ``common law'' be defined or removed from 
the form as common law marriage is not recognized in some states. This 
recommendation was not accepted. ``Common law'' is included on the form 
because it is, in fact, recognized in other states, and we need to 
account for it where it occurs. Similarly, civil unions and domestic 
partnerships are legally recognized in an increasing number of states. 
Therefore, with due regard to the comment from OSD-HR, the form was 
revised to collect information regarding legally recognized civil 
unions and domestic partnerships, in addition to legally recognized 
civil marriages.
    OSD-HR suggested including a hyperlink to 21 U.S.C. 844 or 18 
U.S.C. 3607 to clarify for applicants which convictions may be omitted 
from the form. This recommendation was not accepted as individuals to 
whom this applies should be aware of the reason, and the references may 
easily be researched as necessary.
    OSD-HR recommended that ``controlled substance'' and ``controlled 
substance activity'' should be clearly defined. This recommendation was 
not accepted as this language has been used on the forms for many years 
and has not appeared to require further clarification.
    OSD-HR recommended that the question of being ``ordered, advised, 
or asked to seek counseling or treatment as a result of alcohol use'' 
be treated as a stand-alone question (i.e., a question everyone must 
answer), rather than a branching question, which would be similar to 
the way this information was treated on the SF 85P-S, prior to its 
deletion. OSD-HR stated an alternative recommendation would be to place 
question 4 back on the SF 85P-S to ensure this information is collected 
appropriately. OPM accepted this comment and has added the question 
back on the SF 85P-S as a stand-alone question, while retaining it as a 
conditional question on the SF 85P.
    OSD-HR recommended that the wording of the question regarding 
``negative impacts'' from alcohol on the SF 85P should mirror the 
wording on the SF 86, to include impact on personal relationships. This 
recommendation was not accepted, as the wording on the SF 85P, with its 
emphasis on work relationships, is appropriate for the types of 
decisions the form SF- 85P supports, and, based upon OPM's experience, 
the additional information is not necessary in this context.
    OSD-HR recommended that Section 24, Financial Record, should 
include Chapter 12 in the list of bankruptcies. This recommendation was 
accepted.
    OSD-HR recommended that references to tax liens should be changed 
to ``tax lien (warrant).'' This recommendation was not accepted because 
the Federal government and most (all but 7) states issue tax liens. 
Introducing ``warrant'' may confuse applicants unfamiliar with the term 
outside of its criminal application, and may result in more inaccurate 
responses than if it is not introduced.
    OSD-HR recommended that the question regarding alimony and child 
support payments should be expanded beyond ``current'' to collect a 
history of neglecting these obligations. This comment was not accepted 
because, even though the question on alimony and child support asks 
about current delinquency, the applicant will still need to list any 
judgment, garnishment, or lien, as well as any delinquency over 120 
days, in responding to the other questions on the form.
    OSD-HR recommended adding an example of student loans in 
parenthesis following the question about delinquent federal debt. This 
recommendation was not accepted, as previous experience with this 
question on other forms has shown that including examples tends to lead 
the respondent to narrow his/her response to only the examples, even 
when qualifying language is included (``such as * * *'').
    OSD-HR commented that Section 26 should be amended to remove the 
word ``tortious'' and replace it with ``intentionally or negligently 
wrongful conduct.'' This comment was not accepted because framing the 
question in another way would likely cause it to be interpreted too 
narrowly.
    OSD-HR recommended that Section 27 be amended to remove the word 
``security'' from the explanation block. This comment was accepted.
    OSD-HR stated the word ``clearance'' is not appropriate in the 
Purpose paragraph in the Fair Credit Reporting Disclosure and 
Authorization. This comment was accepted and the word ``clearance'' has 
been changed to ``ability.''
    OSD-HR recommended reinstating the prior Agency Use block for 
``Compu/ADP'' that appeared on the 1995 version of the SF 85P. This 
comment was not accepted because this term is not relevant, standing 
apart from other position designation factors. The Agency Use section 
includes a block for position title, which will help inform the 
adjudicators.
    A commenter from Treasury stated that there are no suitability 
factors in connection with which to adjudicate an affirmative answer to 
Section 15's question regarding service in a foreign country's 
military, intelligence, diplomatic, security forces, or government 
agency. This comment was not accepted. This question complements 
Section 15's questions concerning service in the U.S. military and thus 
affords the opportunity to establish whether there have been instances 
of bad conduct during service in other contexts, where obtaining 
relevant records may be more difficult. Conduct that occurred in these 
locations may be relevant to the decisions these investigations 
support. Further, the U.S. Government has an interest in ensuring that 
persons in positions of public trust have not engaged in acts or 
activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force, and the 
information provided in response to these questions is designed to 
assist the adjudicator with that determination.
    The Treasury commenter also stated that branching questions in 
Section 19 regarding being questioned, searched, etc. appear to be too 
invasive for public trust positions and these encounters and activities 
are not identified as suitability factors. The form was not modified in 
response to this comment. The question is intended to elicit potential 
criminal conduct while in a foreign country. The information provided, 
though not necessarily conclusive, will help the investigating entity 
identify potential issues for further inquiry in a context where it 
would otherwise be difficult to locate appropriate records.
    The Treasury commenter recommended that Question 23, Investigation 
and Clearance Record, be modified to ask the applicant to provide the 
name of the Treasury Bureau that conducted the investigation. This 
comment was accepted.
    A commenter from OPM recommended that additional guidance should be 
provided on the form to explain the process by which the respondent 
should list any freeze on his or her credit accounts. This comment was 
not accepted as OPM provides such implementation guidance to agencies 
to assist respondents.
    The commenter from OPM recommended that Agency Use Block D be 
removed as the form is not to be used for sensitive positions. This 
comment was accepted, and Block D has been removed. Additionally, Block 
C has been renamed, ``Risk Level.''
    The commenter from OPM suggested a link to the Department of 
Education's Web site should be provided in the Education section in 
order to assist respondents in providing a valid school address. This 
comment was accepted and the link will be added.

[[Page 50179]]

    The commenter from OPM suggested that the Relatives section be 
expanded to collect identifying information regarding brother/sister/
stepbrother/stepsister. This comment was accepted.
    The commenter from OPM suggested amending the question in the 
Illegal Use of Drugs section regarding use of illegal drugs while in 
certain positions to include public trust positions. This comment was 
not accepted as it is overly broad.
    The commenter from OPM suggested adding a question to the SF 85P 
regarding whether the subject is currently registered or has ever had 
to register as a sex offender. This comment was not accepted as the 
conduct information that would be sought by such a question is already 
collected in the section regarding Police Record.
    NTEU expressed concerns regarding the sweep of the proposed changes 
and the breadth of the information demanded of public trust employees. 
NTEU commented that there was a lack of justification for the expanded 
scope of the SF 85P and the elimination of questions from the SF 85P-S 
and that OPM has not provided sufficient explanation of the 
government's need for the information. In particular, NTEU suggested 
that OPM appeared to rationalize the introduction of expanded 
questioning on the form simply in order to mirror the SF 86, 
Questionnaire for National Security Positions. NTEU suggested that the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should disapprove the proposed 
information collection.
    Although in its proposed information collection request of December 
2010, OPM did state that questions on the SF 85P and SF 86 were 
designed to mirror one another for consistency, that observation 
related to the objective of alignment, i.e., ensuring that questions in 
areas of overlapping concern are asked in the same manner to the extent 
possible, so that, if there is a future need for a different kind of 
investigation (e.g., if a public trust employee subsequently requires 
access to classified information), the investigating entity may limit 
the scope of any new investigation to areas of inquiry not previously 
pursued. OPM's intent in adding new questions was not to duplicate the 
SF 86. These questions were added, on the basis of knowledge gained 
from experience with the adjudicative function and consultation with 
agencies, to better enable agencies to make sound determinations of 
suitability for public trust positions or fitness or eligibility for a 
credential in other contexts. Where questions were being added to the 
SF 85P that already exist on the SF 86, however, an attempt was made to 
use like language. In other words, OPM operates on the assumption that 
where the same information collection is attempted, similar wording 
should be used. This supports efficient electronic format development 
and potentially assists efficiency when persons move between positions 
that require different forms. The proposed SF 85P and SF 85P-S ask only 
the questions that OPM has concluded are necessary to ensure sufficient 
information to adjudicate suitability or fitness or eligibility at the 
public trust level.
    The SF 85P and SF 85P-S are not to be used for the investigation of 
persons for national security positions. The proposed SF 85P and SF 
85P-S support the investigations to establish that the respondents are 
suitable for appointment or retention in a public trust position fit 
for appointment or retention in the excepted service when the duties to 
be performed are equivalent in degree of trust reposed in the incumbent 
to a public trust position; fit based on character and conduct where 
the individual is going to perform work pursuant to a Government 
contract, when the duties to be performed are equivalent to the duties 
performed by an employee in a public trust position; or eligible for 
physical and logical access to federally controlled facilities or 
information systems, when the duties to be performed are equivalent to 
the duties performed by an employee in a public trust position.
    These investigations seek to determine whether the conduct and 
character of the competitive service or career SES applicant, 
appointee, or employee promote the efficiency and protect the integrity 
of the service. Simply because information may be identified as a 
national security issue does not mean that it would not also be 
relevant to a suitability issue; in fact, many fact patterns that 
present national security issues may also present suitability concerns.
    Additionally, OPM's credentialing standards for those being 
considered for physical or logical access to federal facilities and 
information systems require a determination of whether there is an 
unacceptable risk to the life, safety, or health of employees, 
contractors, vendors, or visitors; to the Government's physical assets 
or information systems; to personal property; to records, including 
classified, privileged, proprietary, financial, or medical records; or 
to the privacy of data subjects.
    From a suitability or fitness perspective, an individual's abuse of 
alcohol may impact on his or her ability to complete the duties of the 
job and/or raise questions about his or her reliability and 
trustworthiness, thus indicating that his or her employment would not 
promote the efficiency of the service or protect its integrity. From a 
credentialing perspective, or the perspective of fitness to perform 
under a contract, an individual's abuse of alcohol may put people, 
property, or information systems at risk and the investigation must 
support a determination regarding whether there is a reasonable basis 
to believe, based on the nature or duration of the individual's alcohol 
abuse without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, that issuance of 
a PIV card or permission to perform work poses an unacceptable risk.
    Inappropriate use of drugs can raise questions about an 
individual's reliability and trustworthiness and ability or willingness 
to comply with laws, rules, and regulations, thus potentially 
indicating that his or her employment would not promote the efficiency 
of the service or protect its integrity. The investigation supports a 
determination of whether there is illegal use of narcotics, drugs or 
other controlled substances, without evidence of substantial 
rehabilitation. From a credentialing perspective, the investigation 
supports a determination of whether an individual's abuse of drugs may 
put people, property, or information systems at risk.
    Failure to live within one's means, satisfy debts, and meet 
financial obligations may raise questions about the individual's 
honesty. Evidence of such failures may also signify that issuing a 
credential would put people, property or information systems at risk. 
For example, a person's consistent failure to satisfy significant debts 
may indicate that granting a PIV poses an unacceptable risk to 
Government financial assets and information systems to which the 
individual will have access.
    Issues related to the use of information technology may be 
evaluated as suitability issues when they relate to criminal or 
dishonest conduct and when occurring on the job, as misconduct or 
negligence in employment. Unauthorized access to government information 
or improper use of government information once access is granted may 
compromise the privacy of individuals, and may make public, information 
that is proprietary in nature, thus compromising the operations and 
missions of Federal entities. Information obtained during the 
investigation supports the deciding

[[Page 50180]]

agency's ability to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to 
believe the individual will use Federally-controlled information 
systems unlawfully, make unauthorized modifications to such systems, 
corrupt or destroy such systems, or engage in inappropriate uses of 
such systems.
    NTEU commented regarding Timing of the Interview and requests ``as 
soon as possible,'' be retained, vice ``immediately.'' This comment was 
accepted.
    NTEU objected to language in the instructions that inform the 
applicant that the scope of a personal interview may exceed the time 
covered by the form when necessary to resolve issues. OPM did not 
accept this comment as the language on the form is properly advising 
the applicant of one aspect of the investigative process. Further, 
information beyond the scope of the question on the form may be 
necessary to provide information regarding patterns of behavior as well 
as conduct that occurred in the past but may have ongoing implications 
or ramifications to current conduct. The form is not intended to limit 
the scope of a proper investigation--it is simply one aspect of the 
investigation required to support the adjudication that is necessary.
    NTEU commented that Section 10 of the form is an improvement but 
suggested that the form be amended to include a space for an employee 
to indicate uncertainty regarding whether he or she currently holds 
citizenship in the foreign country. The form in its electronic 
application provides an ``additional comments'' field which allow for 
explanations of this sort.
    NTEU commented that Section 11 is an improvement over the current 
form but questioned why an employee need report whether the residence 
was owned or leased or other. This information assists investigators in 
verifying residences and seeking references as needed during the 
investigation. NTEU also commented that the three year reference period 
for residences is an improvement but questioned how an employee would 
answer the question if he has no reference to offer. The form in its 
electronic application provides an ``additional comments'' field which 
allow for explanations of this sort.
    Regarding Section 12, NTEU questioned the need for an employee to 
provide the name of someone who knew him at school. This information 
assists investigators in identifying references from the educational 
activity, which is an important component of the individual's personal 
history.
    NTEU suggested that Section 13 be modified to define the term 
``employment.'' This comment was not accepted as the term is commonly 
understood. NTEU objected to collection of the name of someone who can 
verify unemployment activities and means of support while unemployed. 
This information provides alternative reference information necessary 
for the investigation when there is a period of unemployment and 
employment references are not possible. NTEU questioned why the 
government needs to know an employee's means of support. OPM did not 
amend the form in response to NTEU's question as information regarding 
the respondent's activities and means of support while unemployed may 
produce relevant conduct information for that period.
    NTEU and AFGE provided similar comments regarding Section 13c., 
Employment Record. AFGE commented that the collection regarding adverse 
incidents in the workplace is overly invasive and unreliable, and 
further that this type of reporting requirement often operates in 
direct contravention of collective bargaining agreements and Agency 
directives and policies that provide that certain minor disciplines 
will be removed or expunged from Agency files after a certain period of 
time. NTEU recommended that the form be modified to omit any 
disciplinary action that was overturned at a higher level and to 
describe only the ultimate penalty, if it was modified or mitigated. 
NTEU suggested that at a minimum, the form should be modified to 
include a space to note the subsequent disposition of the disciplinary 
action. These comments were not accepted as information regarding the 
underlying conduct, regardless of the penalty assigned, is necessary 
when adjudicating an applicant's suitability or eligibility for a 
public trust position since the adjudicator is evaluating whether the 
individual's conduct could have an adverse impact on the efficiency of 
the service. Further, an agency's collective bargaining agreement with 
its employees does not override the obligation to collect sufficient 
information to meet the government wide legal requirement of an 
adequate suitability adjudication. The form provides fields for the 
applicant to explain circumstances and disposition of the disciplinary 
action. Adjudicators are required to establish that there was a 
reasonable basis to conclude that the conduct occurred in order to use 
the conduct as basis for a decision that a person is unsuitable for a 
position.
    AFGE objected to Section 17 regarding cohabitant and former spouse 
information, Section 18 regarding information about relatives and 
aliases of named relatives, and Section 19 regarding foreign countries 
visited, including any contact with any person known or suspected of 
being involved or associated with foreign intelligence, terrorist, 
security, or military organizations. AFGE commented that these 
questions are overreaching and constitutionally infirm, as in AFGE's 
view, they impinge on protected associational interests. OPM did not 
amend the form as a result of these comments.
    Information collection regarding former spouses and cohabitants has 
been added to the collection as these individuals have proven to be 
useful sources of information when issues surface during an 
investigation. Further, regarding Sections 17, 18, and 19, background 
investigations necessarily involve inquiry into a person's personal 
history, including those relatives and associates with whom the person 
has the strongest ties. OPM inquires about these relationships not to 
gather information regarding beliefs but rather to develop information, 
as a result of these ties, that enables the adjudicator to determine 
whether there is relevant conduct on the part of the person being 
investigated. The relationships themselves are not relevant--it is the 
information that is developed about character and conduct that is of 
interest.
    Regarding Section 17, NTEU commented that OPM has not provided 
sufficient explanation of the need for information regarding former 
spouses and cohabitants and suggested that it appears this information 
was added only because it exists on the SF 86. Information collection 
regarding former spouses and cohabitants has been added to the 
collection as these individuals have proven to be important sources of 
information when issues surface during an investigation. Cohabitants, 
as defined on the form, share a relationship that may be akin to the 
relationship with a spouse. Former spouses have shared such a 
relationship, at least in the past, and are similarly well-suited to 
provide information about conduct. Further, as stated above regarding 
AFGE's comment on this section, background investigations necessarily 
involve inquiry into a person's personal history, including those 
relatives and associates with whom the person has the strongest ties. 
OPM inquires about these relationships, not to gather information 
regarding beliefs but rather to develop information, as a result of 
these ties, that enables the adjudicator to determine whether there is 
relevant conduct on the part of the person being investigated as a 
result of those ties.

[[Page 50181]]

    Regarding Section 19, Travel, NTEU suggested that the instructions 
indicate that frequent travel across the Mexican or Canadian borders 
could be described together, in the category of ``many short trips'' on 
``various'' dates and that the form be revised to permit the listing of 
several countries in one box, when multiple countries were visited on 
the same trip. This comment was not accepted as delineating the 
information regarding specific countries is required in order to 
complete a thorough investigation, especially if information is 
developed concerning improper conduct in a particular location.
    NTEU commented that completion of the travel section could be 
excessively onerous in this day of frequent overseas travel, and 
recommend that instead of requiring the employee to list all trips, it 
would make more sense to require the employee to list and describe only 
certain trips: Those where he or she was questioned/involved in an 
encounter with the police/contacted by persons suspected of being 
involved in or associated with foreign intelligence, terrorist, 
security, or military organizations. This comment was not accepted as 
the question is designed to shed light on the respondent's activities 
and conduct during the time period, and knowledge of the travel itself 
permits exploration of potentially relevant conduct.
    Regarding Section 20, Police Record, NTEU commented that providing 
a specific instruction to report instances when the record was sealed, 
expunged or otherwise stricken from the record or the charge was 
dismissed is an improvement in terms of clarity; however, NTEU 
commented that employees should not be required to disclose information 
that a court has determined is properly expunged or otherwise stricken 
from the record. AFGE similarly commented that the questionnaire should 
not inquire about criminal matters that have been expunged or otherwise 
sealed or eradicated from the court records. These comments were not 
accepted, because information regarding the underlying conduct is 
important to assess, whether or not the record was expunged or 
otherwise sealed or eradicated from the court record. The courts 
expunge or seal records for purposes specific to the respective justice 
systems they represent (e.g., to eliminate the impact upon sentencing 
for subsequent offenses or to protect the individual's privacy). Those 
purposes are not necessarily relevant to the Federal Government's 
obligation to assess suitability, fitness, or eligibility in the 
context of performing work for the Government in a context that rises 
to the level of a public trust.
    Regarding Section 21, Illegal Use of Drugs and Drug Activity, NTEU 
objected to moving the question about illegal drug use and drug 
activity to the SF 85P from the SF 85PS. NTEU recommended that the 
introduction to this section should indicate that it covers drug use or 
activity that is illegal under federal law, if that is the intent of 
the question. This recommendation was not accepted as individuals are 
expected to know and obey the laws of the states as well as the laws of 
the United States, and illegal drug use within the specified period 
might indicate character or conduct that would be inappropriate in an 
individual who would be occupying a position of public trust.
    AFGE commented that the questionnaire provisions demanding 
information about drug use and drug activities violate employees' 
constitutional right to privacy and their Fifth Amendment rights 
against self-incrimination. OPM did not accept this comment. The 
government has an interest in knowing whether an individual being 
considered for or occupying a position of public trust is reliable, 
trustworthy, and willing and able to comply with laws, rules, and 
regulations. Drug use could also have implications for the safety of 
co-workers and the public, if the individual is to have access to 
government facilities and systems. The questionnaire provides an 
assurance that the respondent's truthful responses to Section 21 will 
not be used as evidence against the respondent in a criminal 
proceeding. The investigation supports a determination of whether there 
is illegal use of narcotics, drugs or other controlled substances, 
without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, which is relevant to an 
assessment of character and conduct. From a credentialing perspective, 
the investigation also supports a determination of whether an 
individual's abuse of drugs may put people, property, or information 
systems at risk.
    NTEU objects to the requirement of disclosure of drug use prior to 
the age of 16 and commented that the current SF 85P-S requires 
disclosure of drug use only since the age of 16 or in the last seven 
years, whichever is shorter, should be preserved. The comment was not 
accepted as conduct information before the age of 16 may be relevant, 
depending on the respondent's age and subsequent conduct.
    NTEU questioned the value of the question about future intent to 
use a drug or to engage in drug trafficking. The comment was not 
accepted as responses to this question often shed light on the 
respondent's conduct and reason for engaging in illegal drug use.
    NTEU noted that there is some redundancy in the questions regarding 
whether the applicant has illegally used or has otherwise been involved 
with a drug or controlled substance in the last seven years, or while 
employed as a law enforcement officer, in a position affecting public 
safety, prosecutor, or as a courtroom official. This concern will be 
addressed in the electronic format; the branching nature of the 
questionnaire will ensure that respondents are not presented with 
duplicative questions.
    NTEU questioned the need to ask about ``cultivation'' of any drug 
or controlled substance in the last seven years. This comment was not 
accepted as illegal cultivation is relevant information and represents 
conduct that is distinct from drug use.
    NTEU objected to the question about intentional misuse of 
prescription drugs. This comment was not accepted as information 
regarding intentional misuse of prescription drugs may establish 
criminal conduct as well as possible impairment of judgment and 
reliability without evidence of substantial rehabilitation. Such 
conduct is also relevant to the question of reliability and 
trustworthiness, an important consideration with respect to the 
positions to which this form relates.
    NTEU commented that it strongly opposes the required disclosure of 
voluntary counseling or treatment programs and stated that the 
disclosure, and the offering of mitigating information, should be at 
the employee's option. OPM did not accept these comments. As stated 
above, the information collection regarding illegal use of drugs is 
necessary for the determinations the form supports; it is not possible 
to assess this information properly unless a complete picture is 
obtained, including information about efforts at rehabilitation.
    Regarding Section 22, Alcohol, NTEU objected to the transfer of 
alcohol inquiries from the SF 85PS to the SF 85P, and to expansion of 
the question to ask about ``negative impacts'' on work performance or 
professional relationships. As stated above, an individual's abuse of 
alcohol may impact on his or her ability to adequately perform the 
duties of the position. Such abuse may also raise questions about the 
individual's reliability and trustworthiness, and may suggest the 
individual could put people, property, or information systems at risk. 
Impacts of alcohol use on work performance or professional

[[Page 50182]]

relationships are especially relevant to these decisions, because those 
are precisely the concerns about alcohol abuse that have prompted the 
inquiry.
    NTEU objected to the required disclosure of counseling or treatment 
that the employee voluntarily sought, and stated that the disclosure 
and offering of evidence of rehabilitation, should be at the employee's 
option. AFGE commented that Section 22's questions regarding alcohol 
treatment violate the permissible areas of examination under the 
Rehabilitation Act and ADA, as inquiries regarding a drug addiction are 
proscribed. AFGE further commented that there is a constitutional right 
to privacy in the nondisclosure of personal information. OPM did not 
accept these comments. As stated above, the information collection 
regarding the use of alcohol is necessary for the determinations the 
form supports; moreover, because the form is to be proffered to the 
individual only after an offer has been made (or employment has been 
commenced) OPM believes it has adequately addressed the requirements of 
the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    Regarding Section 24, Financial Record, NTEU questioned the 
justification for expansion of questioning in this area. AFGE commented 
that the questions are overbroad because they fail to establish a nexus 
between the information sought and any specific positions. The nexus, 
in the suitability and fitness contexts, is with the concept of 
dishonesty. As noted above, failure to live within one's means, satisfy 
debts, and meet financial obligations may raise questions about the 
individual's honesty. The nexus, in the credentialing context is with 
the question of whether making the person eligible for access to 
government facilities and systems will put people, property or 
information systems at risk. For example, a person's consistent failure 
to satisfy significant debts may indicate that granting a PIV poses an 
unacceptable risk to Government financial assets and information 
systems to which the individual will have access. The adjudicator is 
not looking at the individual's financial condition per se. The 
adjudicator is assessing whether the individual is making an honest 
effort to discharge its obligation. The expanded questioning of the 
form will assist in gathering pertinent information regarding 
indebtedness that the previous SF 85P did not collect so that 
adjudicators can make more informed decisions.
    NTEU commented that is unclear how overdue taxes must be in order 
to be reported on the form. NTEU stated it is unclear whether the 
section applies to taxes that are jointly owed (by the employee and a 
spouse or separated spouse), and the failure is due to the spouse. OPM 
did not accept the comment as the question requests the respondent to 
provide overdue taxes for which the respondent is responsible. Taxes 
that are jointly owed are owed by both parties. Further, the form 
provides the respondent with the ability to provide explanation and 
mitigating information.
    NTEU recommended that the question about disciplinary action for 
misuse of a government credit card should be modified to include a box 
to report any subsequent reconsideration or modification of agency-
imposed disciplinary action through, for example, a union grievance. 
OPM did not accept this comment as the form already provides the 
ability to provide further explanation.
    NTEU questioned the need to inquire into use of a credit counseling 
service and recommended that this information should be voluntary, to 
be provided if the employee feels it advisable to offer evidence of 
attempts to correct a poor credit situation. OPM did not accept the 
comment. As noted above, OPM is interested in the individual's honest 
efforts to discharge obligations, and this information is highly 
pertinent to that question. Moreover, the question is tailored to 
collect information only when there is first a response indicating that 
there has been an actual inability to fully meet financial obligations.
    NTEU commented that the question regarding whether the employee is 
``currently delinquent'' on alimony, child support, or any federal debt 
is ambiguous as there is no instruction regarding how far in arrears an 
employee must be to be ``delinquent.'' NTEU proposed a standard of 180 
days for delinquency. OPM did not accept this comment as the question 
is designed to gather any current delinquency regarding alimony, child 
support, and federal debt. Based upon experience, OPM thinks that any 
delinquency with respect to these matters could be indicative of a 
character or conduct issue, and thus that information on current 
delinquencies of whatever duration is important in assessing character 
and conduct.
    Regarding the question about whether the respondent is over 120 
days delinquent on any debt in the past seven years, NTEU proposed a 
standard of 180 days as a realistic time within which to expect that an 
employee should be able to correct financial lapses. OPM did not accept 
the comment. Debts that are 120 days past due are serious enough to 
impact a person's creditworthiness. In deciding upon 120 days, OPM 
considered that such lapses are generally reported by credit grantors 
to credit bureaus by the time debts are 120 days past due as such debts 
are widely considered to establish a likelihood that the lapse will not 
be corrected.
    AFGE also commented that the questions in Section 24 violate 
confidentiality provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Disclosure and 
Authorization Act, and implicate other privacy issues. OPM did not 
accept this comment. At the time the investigation is conducted, OPM 
obtains the respondent's voluntary release of information covered by 
the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Unless the individual signs the release 
the investigation cannot go forward.
    Regarding Section 25, Use of Information Technology Systems, NTEU 
commented that the section appears to have been added to mirror a 2008 
addition to the SF 86. As stated, there were no questions added for the 
purpose of mirroring the SF 86. Rather the questions added support the 
determinations that are made using SF 85P-based investigations. 
Disclosures related to the use of information technology may turn up 
potentially criminal or dishonest conduct or, when the underlying 
conduct occurred on the job, evidence of misconduct or negligence in 
employment. Information obtained during the investigation supports a 
decision of whether the individual is sufficiently reliable to hold a 
public trust position or whether there is a reasonable basis to believe 
the individual will use Federally-controlled information systems 
unlawfully, make unauthorized modifications to such systems, corrupt or 
destroy such systems, or engage in inappropriate uses of such systems.
    NTEU noted its approval of the advice regarding self-incrimination 
but expressed concern regarding what it viewed as a lack of clarity as 
to the activity intended to be covered by this section as well as its 
breadth. NTEU suggested that the description of activity covered by 
this section be tightened and more clearly defined, so as to capture 
only such things as true hacking and introduction of viruses or other 
malicious software. AFGE objected to Section 25, stating that issues of 
alleged compromise of Personally Identifiable Information and Privacy 
Act violations are often nuanced and highly technical interpretations 
made by those ill-equipped to make such evaluations, and are 
arbitrarily and capriciously applied by Agencies. OPM did not accept 
these

[[Page 50183]]

comments. The questions are designed to collect information regarding 
specific conduct and incidents. OPM has provided a broad enough context 
to explain the intent of the question and provides guidance to agencies 
about how to use the information properly in adjudications of 
suitability or credentialing.
    Regarding Section 26, Non-Criminal Court Actions, NTEU proposed 
that the section be rephrased to inquire only about civil court actions 
alleging fraud or intentional tortious conduct by the employee 
defendant. NTEU stated its view that this change is necessary because 
it is not uncommon for a complaint to name a long list of defendants 
and many counts, with only some relevant to any given defendant. AFGE 
objected to Section 26, stating that merely being a named defendant in 
a lawsuit of this nature, no matter how frivolous or the nature of the 
disposition, is irrelevant to maintaining a public trust position, and 
should not be used to impermissibly taint an employee's record and 
evaluation, as it is here. OPM did not accept these comments. 
Information about court proceedings often provides leads concerning 
alleged conduct that could be relevant to suitability, fitness or 
credentialing concerns. For examples, such records might include 
allegations of physical violence, allegations of theft, conversion of 
property, or other dishonest conduct, or allegations of negligence of a 
sort that might be relevant to the individual's trustworthiness in the 
position in question. The question is designed to elicit whether 
records exist that could surface such information and to permit the 
investigator's training and experience regarding suitability 
investigations to inform the collection of information from the records 
as opposed to requiring the respondent to apply a filter as to what 
might be relevant. Further, the presence of any information collected 
on the form is not a taint on the respondent, as the information must 
be evaluated using specific criteria established for the type of 
decision the investigation supports.
    Regarding Section 27, Association Record, NTEU suggested that this 
section appears to have been added to mirror the SF 86. AFGE objected 
to Section 27 on the basis of First Amendment association and speech 
interests. As previously stated, there were no questions added for the 
purpose of mirroring the SF 86. The questions were added because, based 
upon OPM's experience it is useful in developing leads that, in turn, 
may permit OPM to develop relevant information about character and 
conduct that would permit adjudicators to make more informed decisions 
about suitability, fitness, and credentialing.
    NTEU commented that because some of the questions are aimed at 
conduct that is undeniably criminal, it wondered at the absence of any 
guarantee of use immunity against self-incrimination in a criminal 
proceeding. Advice concerning immunity in connection with this question 
appears in the first paragraph of the questionnaire.
    Regarding the Authorization for Release of Medical Information, 
NTEU commented that it has previously complained that the permissible 
uses for the Authorization for Release of Medical Information were not 
clearly outlined in the SF 85P and stated that the proposed 
instructions correct that situation. However, NTEU objected to the 
language of the proposed form that indicates that employees will also 
be required to complete the Medical Release ``in the event information 
arises in an investigation that requires further inquiry for 
resolution, and only to resolve such issues.'' NTEU commented that this 
language is not an effective limitation and permits an investigator to 
require signature on the Release at will. OPM did not amend the form in 
response to this comment as the proper use and handling of the 
investigative questionnaire by investigations program personnel is 
governed by investigative policies appropriate to the types of 
decision-making the investigations support. The President, in E.O. 
13488, has required that agencies re-investigate periodically the 
incumbents of public trust positions, and, depending upon the types of 
issues that might arise in such a reinvestigation, the medical 
information covered by the release could be highly salient to the 
question whether it continues to be appropriate to retain the 
individual in the position that he or she encumbers.
    Regarding the electronic format of the form, NTEU commented that it 
does not oppose the e-QIP format and recognized that use of branching 
questions can assist a respondent in determining what follow-up 
questions to answer. NTEU expressed a concern, however, about the 
extent of an employee's ability to correct or amend answers to 
eliminate inadvertent errors or omissions once inputted and inquired 
whether a half-completed form could be saved and continued at a later 
date and whether a form submitted through e-QIP could be later revised. 
Although this concern appears to be outside of the scope of comments on 
the information collection, OPM advises that respondents are able to 
save and continue inputting information as necessary, up to the point 
that the respondent certifies that the information is accurate and 
complete. Once the collection has been certified, the applicant may 
contact the agency that asked him or her to complete the questionnaire 
should the applicant need to amend or correct the information he or she 
provided.
    Regarding the Burden on Respondents, NTEU suggested that the 
estimated burden of 75 minutes to complete the SF 85P underestimated 
the burden imposed on those who will have to complete this form. OPM 
has reassessed the burden imposed on nonfederal respondents. The 
electronic application includes branching questions and instructions 
which provide for a tailored collection from the respondent based on 
varying factors in the respondent's personal history. The burden on the 
respondent will vary depending upon what branching questions are 
triggered by the respondent's personal history. OPM employed the 
Department of Defense Personnel Security Research Center to conduct a 
study of the estimated burden of the SF 85P based on empirical data 
gathered in a simulated background investigation context. A sample of 
33 participants successfully completed the study. Time burden estimates 
ranged greatly, from 70 to 435 minutes. The average of participant time 
spent completing the form was 183 minutes and the median was 155 
minutes. In calculating the burden estimate for the SF 85P, the median 
number will be used, due to the variations expected from the tailored 
collection.
    Comments regarding the SF 85P-S were received from commenters at 
DOJ, OSD-HR, and from NTEU. Commenters from the DOJ and OSD-HR 
recommended that the SF 85P-S should be eliminated and that the 
questions from the SF 85P-S be incorporated into the SF 85P. These 
comments were not accepted because the SF 85P-S collects information 
necessary for adjudication only of certain positions, particularly 
those that require the carrying of firearms.
    NTEU commented that questions about illegal drug use and alcohol 
should be reserved for the SF 85P-S. This comment was not accepted 
because OPM has concluded, on the basis of experience, that the 
information collected regarding these areas is relevant to all of the 
decision-making the SF 85P supports, and not merely the positions that 
traditionally used the SF 85P-S in the past.
    As stated above, OSD-HR recommends that the question of being

[[Page 50184]]

``ordered, advised, or asked to seek counseling or treatment as a 
result of alcohol use'' be treated as a stand-alone question on the SF 
85P or alternatively, that question 4 be placed back on the SF 85P-S to 
ensure this information is collected appropriately. OPM accepted this 
comment and has added the question back on the SF 85P-S as a standalone 
question, while retaining it as a conditional question on the SF 85P.

U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
John Berry,
Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-20379 Filed 8-16-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6325-53-P