Career AdviceObtaining Security Clearance

New SF86 Approved by OMB

On March 10, 2010 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a new version of the Standard Form 86—SF86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions). The only description of the new form currently available is a PDF file, consisting of 453 pages of explanations and screen shots of the eQIP version, posted at the website. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has not yet posted the new form at their website. The last revision of the SF86 was approved in July 2008. OPM did not post that version of the form on their website until October 2008 and the eQIP version was not available for use by contractors until January 2009.

The new March 2010 version of the SF86 is considerably different and longer than the version submitted for public comment in September 2009. That version was described on this blog at “OPM Submits New SF86 for Review” in October 2009. Major changes now include:

  • Purpose of this form—“This form may also be used by agencies in determining whether a subject performing work for, or on behalf of, the Government under a contract should be deemed eligible for logical or physical access when the nature of the work to be performed is sensitive and could bring about an adverse effect on the national security.”
  • History of residences, schools, and employment require 10 years of information for all levels of clearances.
  • Many new and expanded questions were added regarding foreign connections, foreign involvement, and foreign travel.
  • Reportable foreign associates now include those with whom you are bound by a “common interest” (a significant change that may affect social media contacts).
  • New and expanded questions were added regarding financial records, police records, drugs, alcohol, and mental health.

These changes are in line with the Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team’s (JSSRT) planned expansion of upfront comprehensive follow-up questions necessary to enhance the collection of subject-reported information as early as possible in the investigative process. Answers to the new and expanded questions represent information that would otherwise have to be obtained during a Subject Interview by an investigator and will result in shorter Subject Interview times for applicants with complicated personal histories.

Comment Archive

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    I’ll be the first to say, this will not shorten interviews unless there is a drastic interview policy change. Things still have to be discussed.

    I guess too much info is better than too little.

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    I don’t believe that the there will be a drastic interview policy change. I agree with you, that the personal interviews should not be shorten. All questions should be answered with as much detail as possible. In this case more, is better.

    Diane Griffin
    Author of ” Everything you need to know about the security clearance process, but are afraid to ask!

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    Even if the issues are all disclosed on the new form they will still need to be discussed during the subject interview and reported (typed up) with full issue resolution. This may drastically increase not only interview time but typing time as well. I’m a little scared how this is going to turn out.

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    Hi BW and Contract,

    I am considering going through background, etc. to do contract security clearance/background investigation work. That is why I like to read your posts about the job and level of expectations of completed investigations vs. time frame. Sounds like although they have a new form it won’t change things too much. Can you tell me if there has been a rate increase from $32/hr for contractors yet? I know they were talking about raising it a few dollars.

    Thank you.

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    I had a question regarding my friend, who had been going through the background investigation process for close to 9 months, just heard back from the contract agency that OPM determined his background unfavorable and couldn’t provide any further details. Now my friend told me he was let go from USIS over 5 years ago but not for any serious issues. He also told me that he has encountered some financial issues recently but again nothing like bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc. He has no criminal background; all sources interviewed were favorable to the best of his knowledge. So he doesn’t understand why he was rated as unfavorable and was only told that his background is going through an Admin. Review with OPM. When he contacted OPM, they say the contract investigation agency makes the determination so my friend doesn’t know what to do and I have no information that I can tell him. He can’t become an investigator now and nobody seems to provide any details to him. He also requested his background weeks ago, along with the notes. Any advice or information would be appreciated.

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    You are referring to sub-contract work. The 32 per is per source testimony–it really isn’t an hourly wage. You can easily do 3-4 testimonies per hour if in the right place–that equals 4 x 32=128 dollars. KGS pays $50 per testimony, the rest I hear pay the 32. Each item/interview has a standard time to complete, so you are paid by that……. PRSI takes 3 hours to collect and type, so times whatever the wage is for that item not matter how long it takes and most take about 1 hr and sometimes longer if full of issues. Most records checks are about 25 each.

    The new form will not do much for us except give the inv more to fix because about 90% of all SF 86’s I see have missing info or incorrect info and we have to correct the record.

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    I know for the company I work for if work runs low the contractors are the ones who loose out first. If you are doing the contract investigator work as a supplement to your income then it is fine but be careful if you are going to be living off of the contractor paycheck.

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    BW and Investigator, your wisdom is always appreciated. I am recently retired LE but have been doing some inv. work after retirement which could be ending in a couple months. BW it really helps to see the breakdown you gave which makes the pay sound better than I realized. I am a little nervous because I understand the federal report format is complex. I have been reading your posts for about a year now and I see there are many obstacles/challenges that can pop up. The inv. job I retired from was complex, but I was there for many years so I was able to handle it. I have training in regular LE background investigations but not security clearances. You both are very knowledgeable and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts (even though I don’t always understand the subject matter). I am sure all those you have helped with your expertise would agree with me that you represent your profession very well. Thank you!

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    Yes learning the background investigation process OPM has can be challenging for some. The training classes I have conducted have had some former LEOs in them. Some of them had a tough time while others caught on pretty quick. The ones who had the toughest time could not let their law enforcement background go when learning the material. There are a lot of case types to learn and a lot of details for each case type along with what questions we have to ask subjects, sources and records providers. If you go into the training with an open mind and blank slate you should do fine. Good luck with whatever you choose to do and which ever company you choose to work for.

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    I concur with Investigator. It is tough to get out of the law enforcement mentality when starting this type of work. You have to remember that these people aren’t suspects, they are people who are either gainfully employed or attempting to be gainfully employed who may or may not have some issues in their lives. Just keep that in mind when you are going through training and when you get out in the field. I’ll never forget my very first interview where I scared the you-know-what out of my subject (I didn’t quite understand the meaning of OPM “confrontational” interviews and did what I was used to). My trainer kindly explained to me that I didn’t need to be so mean. Lesson learned.

    Re: the new form. Not looking forward to it. I anticapate a much longer subject interview followed by a huge increase in typing time. Unless the powers that be allow the information on the form to stand alone (it appears that many sections ask for lots of details-which I am assuming will need to be covered during the interview and re-reported when the report is typed). I hope I am making an incorrect assumption.

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    I will tell you that my background as a military criminal inv helped tremendously with report writing. I found that to be quite easy when I started. Having a LE background is helpful in this job as you know how to ask and get answers–saves alot of time beating around the bush. Once you learn the procedures, you will do great. Also, one thing I’ve learned along the way is to swallow your pride and simply ask others who have been around a while if there is something you are unsure of. There are alot of inside tricks of the trade some know and some don’t. There are alot of ways to shorten things when you are armed with the correct info and many old timers can guide you there. Appreciate the kind words and I bet you will do great at this job–Best wishes and keep us posted.

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    Investigator, Contract Investigator and BW,

    If I do get hired, I’m definitely going to swallow my pride and respect those of you who have been doing this job. I understand how much frustration that can save me and how much faster I can learn what’s important for me to focus on. Thanks again for the information on the new format. I hope that somehow it won’t be too much extra work for you.

    One thing I noticed was that even though you all seemed to have trying moments with your investigations and the legislative changes, you still had that enthusiasm to do your best and that comes with being good at your job. I have a while to go before I start the process, but I will let you know how it turns out. If I end up working with investigators and hopefully supervisors like you, I will be very lucky!

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    Contract Investigator

    Funny–that first interview was odd for me to. I was originally a SPIN Inv with a whopping 2 hours of OPM training under my belt–that’s right only 2 hours!!!!! I initially went in for the kill on what I thought were pretty serious issues. What was funny–is that the subj was completely cooperative and it threw me off my game for a minute–was not use to getting such cooperation so easily. From that point, I quickly changed my approach and now I’m a kinder-gentler Investigator 🙂

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    BW, we may have been in the same SPIN class… I was handed the handbook, shown how to get into PIPs and sent on my way. Needless to say, I had about 4 months worth of reopens before I figured out what I was doing.

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    BW and Contract,
    Our company is doing better regarding SPIN classes. Our eSPIN class which I have taught a few of them is a week long. Telecons, webcons, self paced exercises as well has shadow training. Much better than 2 hours.

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    Contract Inv

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    Contract Inv

    If it was in a person’s dining room with big dogs all over me, then we were together. My computer did not work, so I was unable to even get into PIPS–had to look over someone’s shoulder. Funny how I had to read the manual for PIPS and PIPS-R to teach myself as well. Luckily, I was able to figure out the report writing through a friend who had been in the business. Boy, I do miss the height of the SPIN era–loved the money.

    Investigator, I think a week would have been nice and enough time.

  18. Avatar

    What is up with the approved Questions?

    Police Record

    On one section it says

    In the Last 7 years How you been arrested?

    Then on the next section it says

    Have you EVER been arrested? I thought they changed it to 7 years.

    I ‘m perplexed

    Are the different sections for 2 different types of investigations or…?

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    No, my training was in the office (back in Annandale). It was crazy. And, yes, I feel the pain with the SPIN money-best was a few details down to Ft. Jackson to conduct SPINs on people in basic training. Captive audience. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Really miss those days.

    Our SPIN class was initially scheduled for a week but they decided a day was sufficient. They flew in a guy to teach the PR class and THAT was a great class, although he had to field a whole bunch of questions about SPINS.

  20. Avatar


    No contract inv agencies make clearance determinations. Your friend did the right thing by ordering the case to see it first hand.

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    Thank you for the response but what appeals process and/or rights does my friend have to either have OPM’s decision overturned or at least have the information noted in a record? It seems really strange and odd that my friends background was not adjudicated favorably since I’ve seen far worse and clearly know those individuals received their clearances, no matter what level it was. My friend thinks that he may have a former employee with USIS that made negative information appear in his file that clearly wasn’t true and he’s in the process of the obtaining that information as well, that’s all he can think would be the reason. And even if the information was in the file and not to down-play the situation but that was over five years ago. My friend did nothing of a seriousness nature with USIS and can’t understand the situation. I have no answers for my friend; any further advice would be appreciated.

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    Sorry to hear of the trouble. If your friend feels slandered and feels as if he/she is being mistreated in any way, I would recommend legal representation after getting the background investigation. There is an appeal process, but wait until the report of investigation is read. Also, if your friend was involved in some form of misconduct in ref to the OPM contract, OPM does retain the right to stop that person from working on the contract again if it (OPM) feels there is cause. If your friend is truly serious about taking on the govt, he/she is best served by not going it alone. Also, if there are current financial concerns and past misconduct, the hiring agency may have used the info and decided not to proceed with the hiring. I wish I had more positive answers for you.

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    Thanks, I appreciate your advice; these blogs are a good tool to get ideas, information, etc. I’ll speak with my friend and see what he wants to do. If he feels he was unfairly treated and wants to appeal the background, do you know who he would contact or would it be just OPM, once he reviews the report? Thanks again.

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    I forgot to ask on my last message but my friend was also told that his background was under administration review by OPM but was given no further information. He was wondering what that meant as well. Thanks.

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    I have a question for the investigators regarding the criminal history section.

    On one section it asks have you been arrested in the last 7 years?

    Then if you said no it asks have you EVER been charged with a felony offense?

    I want to know if would answer 7 years for a secret clearance and EVER for a Top Secret clearance?

    I need some feedback here.

  26. Avatar


    Best to wait and get final determination. Your FRIEND may have been cleared and simply not hired for whatever reason. If the person is denied, start with Google and look for clearance appeals process. I am no way an expert on appeals, so best to hear from some of the experts on this board. Just don’t address the entry to me and I bet someone will chime in with the right knowledge and expertise.

    Good luck

  27. Avatar

    Jack, you go back 7 years for arrests for non-SSBI case types and 10 years for arrests for SSBI case types. The EVER question for felonies is for any case type (so regardless of when the felony was it is still required to be listed).