Background Investigations

Background Investigation Adjudication Types and Criteria Used

There are different types of federal background investigations and matching adjudicative criteria used to make favorable or unfavorable determinations. Depending on the purpose and level of the investigation, adjudicators are trained to apply the correct adjudicative criteria to each case. Here are the different types of adjudicative determinations:

National Security Determinations apply to civilian, military, and contract personnel assigned to positions requiring access to classified national security information or facilities. Adjudicators use the thirteen adjudicative guidelines found in Security Executive Agent Directive-4 (SEAD-4) to determine trustworthiness for access to classified information. Take not that as the criteria are applied, it is possible for an individual to be found suitable or fit for employment, but ineligible for a security clearance, or vice versa.

Suitability Determinations apply to federal employees tiered by risk level (low, moderate, or high) based on the duties of the position. Adjudicators use suitability criteria found in the Code of Federal Regulations (5CFR731) and an Office of Personnel Management decision-making guide for suitability and credentialing to review the individual’s past and current actions to determine if their character and conduct will promote efficiency and protect the integrity of the service.

Fitness Determinations use the same guidelines as for suitability to determine whether a contract employee is acceptable to perform duties on behalf of a federal agency. In short, suitability and fitness are synonymous in determining if an applicant is suitable or fit for employment.

Credentialing Decisions ensure an employee does not pose a risk to life, safety, or health of people, assets, or information. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) states federal employees and contractors requiring long-term access to U.S. government facilities and information technology systems must meet investigative standards for federal credentialing. Adjudicators use six basic adjudicative guidelines and seven supplemental adjudicative factors to determine eligibility for access and issuance of federal credentials.