Background Investigations

What Is the Difference Between HSPD-12, Fitness, Suitability, and Security?

HSPD-12 Credentialing Decision

The objective of an HSPD-12 credentialing decision is to ensure that a person does not pose an unacceptable risk to life, safety or health to persons, assets or information. It applies to all Federal employees and contractors requiring long-term access to Federal facilities and/or IT systems.

Suitability Determination

Suitability determinations apply to all Federal employees in the competitive service and career SES positions. Each position is designated at the low, moderate, or high risk level according to the specific duties they perform and the amount of damage any misconduct could cause to that agency. Positions at the high and moderate risk levels are public trust positions. A suitability determination is a review of an individual’s identifiable character traits and conduct in order to determine whether the individual is likely or not likely to be able to carry out the duties of a Federal job with appropriate integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Fitness Determination

Using the same adjudicative guidelines that are used for suitability, the objective of a fitness determination is to determine whether a person’s level of character and conduct is acceptable in order for the individual to perform work for, or on behalf of, a Federal agency as an employee in the excepted service (other than in a position subject to suitability) or as a contractor employee.

Security Determination

Security determinations apply to all Federal employees assigned to national security positions, military personnel, and contractors who need access to classified national security information. In accordance with Executive Order 12968, the objective of a security determination is to decide whether employment in a sensitive position or eligibility for access would constitute a risk to national security. Theoretically, an individual could be found suitable or fit for employment, but not be eligible for a clearance. For example: concerns exist about an individual’s associates or relatives, or the influence of foreign contacts.

All of these determinations are distinct from the assessment of an individual’s job skills and qualifications. Current satisfactory performance or job skill set should not be confused with fitness, suitability or security.  If a person’s past or present character is in serious doubt, and could adversely affect the integrity and efficiency of agency operations or national security, then that person should not be considered eligible for continued employment or access.