Career Advice

Office of Personnel Recommendations?

On May 8, 2009 John Berry, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) jokingly told a senate subcommittee that his agency was sometimes referred to as the “Office of Personnel Recommendations.”  Berry made this comment at a hearing on the Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act of 2009 (S.736). OPM has no ability to force other federal agencies to comply with existing personnel rules, and no penalties exist for noncompliance.

Regardless of Berry’s stated intent to administratively implement the provisions of S736, the legislation is necessary for any substantive changes to the government’s cumbersome and slow hiring practices. S.736 seeks to:

  • Require agencies to promptly notify applicants of their status at each major step of the selection process.
  • Fill vacancies in an average of 80 days or less.
  • Allow applicants to submit a cover letter, resume, and answers to brief questions, such as questions relating to United States citizenship and veterans status, to complete an application
  • Improve job announcements
  • Eliminate KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) essays.

Related: Take a look at our Military Resume Templates that focus on defense and intelligence careers.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    I wonder if this will speed up background/clearance investigation times?

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    There is no real way to make these backgrounds much faster without a “Huge” increase of Investigators…..etc…. A week in the life of an investigator–I am TDY to another state and for nearly 5 days, I did not receive any calls back from anyone to help me collect info or conduct any interviews. Now, that is just me–multiply that by a few thousand other investigators having similar troubles in the field.

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    Does not sound like fun…but couldn’t a note from the investigated that says they are “safe and clearable” work like the carfax commercial, then all would run smoothly 🙂

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    Funny thing is, most places and people I speak of are the one’s who requested the clearance to begin with. Don’t get it–Ask for someone to ber cleared and not help the Investigator get what he/she needs??????????

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    Shame…one would think if an investigator needs the info to make the check go faster/smoother and within a decent amount of time they would give all info needed. I have a check getting ready to come up for a position in Germany and I’ve already downloaded the new SF-86, filled it out and tracked down all information I need. Just ready to fill it out online when asked.

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    I’ve experienced an increase in people not calling back, too. It’s bizarre actually. I have never seen it so bad. We’re talking former employment sources, record providers, neighbors and even social sources (you think they’d like to help a friend out). I just don’t get it. Sign of the times? Normally this lack of cooperation doesn’t come until August, when everyone and their mother is on vacation… It also doesn’t help when we have a two week turnaround.

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    Contract Inv,

    I hear ya–two weeks is no fun. Lately it has been bad, but it use to seem a little smoother–guess folks are just tired of doing their jobs 🙂

    Funny, recently had a place say I could not review a record–funny thing is, I was clearing their active employee–is that about the most ridiculous thing you have heard!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am never amazed

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    BW: I thought all cleared federal contractors were contractually obligated to cooperate with clearance investigators.

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    They are, but there are times we run into what I believe are just bad employees who could care less. You would be amazed how difficult companies are getting–Don’t believe it’s company policy, just the employee. Just a year ago one of the country’s largest DoD contractors was giving us a slow-roll in NoVA. The outcome swung our way after complaining. We converged on the area with several dozen Inv’s to try to clear backlogs but the help was limited. There are cases we have to schedule appts for 1 record and sometimes we are pushed-out a week or more (Contract Co’s). This is not acceptable as these records take about 2-3 minutes to review and the folks do nothing but hand us a file.

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    BW and William,
    Dealing with rude employers and neighbors in the DC/NVA are was one of the reasons I moved to central VA a about 6 years ago. People in my area are for the most part nice and helpful. Traffic is not as bad either.

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    I recall only a few similar problems in central California, but our DSS Industrial Security Rep always straightened things out very quickly for us. I realize that you don’t have the same relationship with DSS IS Reps that we did (since we were part of the same organization), but you can always ask them for assistance–of course you really should have to.

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    I recently had a federal government site deny me access. That has never happened to me before. It was definitely the employee who had too much power for her position. She required correspondence from OPM before she would consider to allow access. Honestly this was not one of your more sensitive locations. Once she received the letter (it was provided within three days-go OPM!) she stopped responding to messages. Had to note it out and I really, really, really hope she gets some repercussions from her actions. The way she handled the situation was completely unprofessional.

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    Maybe the Federal Times should write a story about how some federal agencies and federal contractors do not cooperate with investigators conducting background investigations.

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    I agree. I think OPM is going to see a lot of I-Notes due to the lack of cooperation and the two week turnarounds. I scope my cases and start making calls as soon as they are assigned to try and get the ball rolling on my fieldwork. However, when people don’t respond to phone or in-person attempts, there is nothing else I can do. I try as hard as I can but am not able to keep beating dead horses given the new guidelines. I think these guidelines are detrimental, in that it sometimes takes longer than two weeks to secure the needed coverage.

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    William, BW and Contract,
    We should all right an article about the numerous obtstacles investigators face when conducting background investgations. Maybe it would open the eyes of some.

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    Does anyone have any stats on how the e-clearing and if the e-adjudications are working as planned?

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    What you suggest will soon be completely overtaken by events. The only field leads on a standard (unexpanded) Tier 3 investigation will be the Subject Interview and an employment record review and the interview of a supervisor at each place of employment during the past 3 years. By my calculations that reduces the number of reference interviews by about 90% and records checks by at least 50% (not counting any law checks that can’t be done electronically). There are no field leads (except law checks) on standard investigations for Tier 1 or Tier 2.

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    Mr. Henderson,

    What are the timelines to implement this? Wondering if I need to start checking into a new line of work.

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    I have read about the new Tier investigation system. Is there a time frame of when it is going to go into place? I thought it was going to be in place by this summer.

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    Sounds like the more automated the process is the less investigators they will need and just use the manpower for interviews, employeer checks and such. Sounds bad for you guys the investigators but everyone else my like it due to a faster process.

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    I don’t think we will run out of work anytime soon. I was just put on a 6 month training detail because our company is going to be hiring more investigators for certain areas that need them.

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    I think it’s way too little early to even think about a new occupation. I don’t think they can fully implement the new standards until most of the other components of the new system are operational. For example the estimated operational dates for the Expandable Focused Investigation (EFI) and the Automated Record Check (ARC) are 3rd quarter CY 2010. After than I think there may be a moderate reduction in the number of field investigators in non-metropolitan areas.

    In my previous post I only mentioned my opinion on the possible effect of the new investigative standards on cases that will not require expansion. I think you will see a lot more case expansion on all 3 tiers. I think the ARC will develop about 20% more issues than NACIs, ANACIs, and NACLCs did. Historically there has been about 4 times as many of these cases than SSBIs. So even if only half of the new developed issues require expansion, it will result in a lot more field leads. Plus there will be reinvestigations for the vast majority of Tier 2 cases once every 5 years instead of once every 10 years, and almost all Tier 3 cases will get a partial reinvestigation once a year. This will generate more field work.

    So what I see happening is 50% of initial investigations for Tier 1 & Tier 2 are going to get processed really fast, because there will be no field leads other than law checks in some jurisdictions where Nlets access is not yet available. About 35% of the Tier 3 cases will get much faster than they are now. This will allow more time to complete cases that require expansion and still meet the IRTPA Title III requirements. Because Tier 3 will be the basic requirement for SCI, I think the IC will demand that the threshold for case expansion be set much lower than for Tier 1 or Tier 2. I’m surprised the IC even agreed to the Tier 3 standard. Maybe they are relying on the expanded use of the polygraph. Back in 1990-1991 when they were thrashing out the scope of the SSBI, it was the IC that insisted on neighborhood investigations when most others at the table wanted to eliminate it.

    This is only my best guess as to what will happen. I don’t have access to any insider information. I can only analyze the little information that is publicly available. I made some pretty good predictions last July in my article, “A Review of E.O. 13467.” If your company doesn’t change the pay structure for the leads you are completing, I think you will find it easier to make the same amount of money, because the most time consuming non-Subject Interview leads will be greatly reduced.

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    Contract Investigator,

    As William said, large metro-areas will be almost uneffected. For those folks in rural areas, work will be hard to come by. Those in Non-Metros, like me will have to drive a little more than I do now. I believe there is alot we field folks do not know, afterall, why would someone have bought Kroll and why would USIS be investing a “Ton” of cash into equipment upgrades and as Investigator said, training new hires. As always, the power players in the game will not release info into the field until the last minute. Also, if you look at alot of cases, you know how issue laden they are–this will prompt expansion. Hang tight I think we are fine for now.