Background Investigations

A Typical Day for a Background Investigation Adjudicator

Adjudicators must be decisive and efficient critical thinkers to make quality adjudicative decisions and meet timeliness standards, ensuring mission readiness and risk mitigation. They require a strong knowledge of the policies and procedures that govern adjudications and need to be able to efficiently review a subject’s case, identify the information relevant to national security, and be able to discern whether the subject, all-things-considered, poses an unacceptable security risk.

On any given day, adjudicators review a variety of cases (as many as 30 to 50 a day), including initial investigations, reinvestigations, continuous evaluation alerts, and incident reports. Depending on the security concerns present, they may be able to make a favorable determination without any additional action or follow-up. If security concerns are not mitigated then they may draft some form of correspondence, whether it be a memo requesting more information from the command/subject or documents proposing denial or revocation of a subject’s eligibility for access to classified information that explain the concerns supporting that decision.

Drafting correspondence, whether to request more information or to recommend denial/revocation of a subject’s eligibility is one of the most time-consuming tasks for an adjudicator. However, it also means the case is probably interesting and contains important security concerns that need to be addressed. When sending out a Letter of Interrogatory (LOI) or a Statement of Reasons (SOR) adjudicators must ensure it is based on facts from the Report of Investigation (ROI). This puts the applicant on notice as to exactly what the issues are, why they are of concern, and under what guidelines. This ensures applicants have the information needed to provide mitigation of the concerns. Why is this important? Because during the appeal process procedural matters are looked at by the appeals judge to ensure the agency followed the rules and governing guidance.

From my own experience, the most important aspect of adjudication is ensuring I have identified all the issues present, if any, and quantifying in writing as to why they are or are not disqualifying under the various adjudicative guidelines for national security, suitability, fitness, and credentialing. I would say for the most part, 90% of the cases involve no issues or only minor issues that are mitigated without further action. However, when a major issue case comes in, I clear my desk of everything else so I can fully concentrate on that case only and draw up a detailed synopsis of the disqualifying issues. Adjudicators are an unheralded, but important piece of the background investigation process.

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