DoD Suitability and Fitness Guide: A Good Resource for Public Trust and Other Positions

This guide, developed by the Defense Personnel and Security Research Center (PERSEREC), outlines policies, procedures, and guidelines for DoD Adjudicators making employment suitability and fitness determinations for DoD civilian employees and contractors. It applies to those who do not need a security clearance. Many of the adjudicative guidelines are similar to those applying for security clearances minus areas like foreign influence and foreign preference, and threshold levels for areas like financial issues are higher or not considered.

A disclaimer should be noted: the guide is not authoritative policy, but rather serves as a supplement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Suitability Processing Handbook used by adjudicators throughout the Federal Government. Details on end-to-end processing (from position designation, pre-screening, interim determinations, through final adjudication and appeal) are provided, as well as links to references and other supporting materials. The guide also describes how suitability and fitness cases are processed by the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF). Interesting to note, the DoD CAF only makes the final determination in favorable cases. If there are issues or more information is needed, the DoD CAF turns over the investigation to the component that requested for final adjudication The rationale for this is that the component is more attuned to the specific duties of the applicant’s position, and thus, are able to better understand any issues and what the impact or risk would be to the agency.

DoD contractors should take note of fitness adjudicative processes noted in Section 12 and how the appeals process works. I have noted in previous articles that the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals is the deciding authority for adverse fitness decisions for DoD contractors. Also, Table 12 offers a good breakdown on the different investigations and their components. Just a word of advice, don’t try to play investigator or adjudicator after reading this guide. They are trained security professionals, you are not! Focus on understanding the position designation for the job you are in or applying for, the type of investigation needed, and what kind of mitigation to provide if you have potential issues.