Background Investigations

OPM Announces Rollout of New SF86

On December 22, 2010 the Office of Personnel Management announced that in February they will begin a phased implementation of the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) version of the new March 2010 Questionnaire for National Security Positions (Standard Form 86—SF86). A copy of the new SF86 has not yet been posted to the OPM forms site, but was to be distributed to other investigations service providers before the end of December.

The last version (July 2008) of the SF86 was phased in over a period of about 5 months from September 2008 to January 2009.  DOD contractor personnel were among the last to begin using the form.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Anyone received any training on this thing yet? I haven’t seen any.


    Should be fun!

    Rumor also has it that a giant clusterf*ck of changes are heading our way in 2012.


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    I’ve heard nor seen anything. No different than the ESI, which nobody seems to really know what to do. Fed, what’s your take on the new credit coverage when not required to be reported by the SUBJ–I’m not thrilled about this, nor have many of the folks I have interviewed to date. Once again, no apparent inputs from anyone actually doing the job.

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    BW, to be honest, I’m not even sure what you mean by the new credit coverage, unless you’re referring to the MBI follow up stuff that we’re supposed to be doing but no one is.

    I’m just to the point I can’t keep up with the changes anymore and not sure I want to.

  4. Avatar

    Talking bout the credit report review when briefing and covering late payments irregardless how many days late and dates, even when not required to be reported by subj.

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    Haven’t heard that but doesn’t mean much. Huh.

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    I have started seeing what you are talking about BW. I am being given instructions to confront SJs about accounts in which they have only been 30 days late. When I called our OPS Center to see why I was told that is what OPM wants. No other explanation.

    Question for all of you. I recently read an article about how the Dept of State now has Parent 1 and Parent 2 on passport applications instead of Mother and Father. How long do you think it will be before OPM changes the SF 86 again so it says this if they will at all?

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    OK–making sure I’m not nuts. I’ve inquired as well, but seems as if nobody reallly knows. Because OPM says so is not an answer. I’d like more particulars. The DOS is just being PC correct it sounds like. They will soon need to put a Significant Other block on the form with the repeal of DADT. I don’t think the Cohab block is PC enough for these days.

  8. Avatar

    I shot the financial question up our chain and this is what filtered back down to me from above my pay grade:

    There has been significant angst about the minor financial issues such as an account that was once 30 days past due but is now current. Unfortunately we have asked about this and have been told that we are required to discuss these with the subject if we know them in advance of the ESI.

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    Sounds like a typical “I’m not sure” answer you got as well. I do not have a problem doing it, I’m just wanting it added as part of the questionnaire for record. We are the ones who catch the brunt of this in the field. Had a few subj’s get nervous when this is brought up.

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    It used to be that when an instruction was given it had to be justified in the handbook somewhere or it could be successfully argued that it wasn’t necessary for the case. There have been so many changes lately that it’s hard to keep up. I actually had two of my contracting companies give completely opposite instructions regarding the treatment of the SPIN/ ESI 2 cases from FY10 and FY11… These were both “clarifications from OPM” and they contradicted each other (one called for FY10 cases to be treated and worked under the old guidelines, regardless of SD, the other called for FY10 cases scheduled after 10/1/10 to be treated with the new guidelines)… So who knows.

    I am seriously contemplated getting out of the OPM game. The compensation has not kept up with the increase in time and it is not nearly as fruitful as it used to be. Shame, really. And I’m absolutely terrified of the new form…

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    Afraid you are not alone. Alot of folks don’t want to keep doing this, especially subs. I agree that compensation should equal the time and scope of the new methods of interviewing. I miss the old SPIN days–in and out in about 10-15 mins and on to the next one!!!!

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    A SPIN in 10-15 minutes? How long ago was that?

  13. Avatar

    There are no FY10 cases opened after 10/1/10. Cases opened on or after 10/1/10 are FY11 cases.

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    Mr. Henderson,

    In October and November 2010, there were a lot of FY10 cases with an SD of 10/1/10. There was a lot of confusion about how those cases were to be handled, leading to the contradictory guidance from two competing contracting companies.

    Fed, there were a ton of SPINS that only took 10-15 minutes. One issue cases mostly. I used to knock out a ton a day. That was some goooood money!

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    Fed Inv,

    Not to long ago. But, in about 2004-2005, I was doing anywhere between 5-10 per day–Money was HUGE. Most cases were Army/Guard and had only one small issue per case. The longest one I ever did was 45 mins.

    They never really went after alot of financial issues, just criminal acts mainly.

    But, I bet contractor remembers the day we took written affidavits each time–don’t miss that.

  16. Avatar

    Ewwwww, written affidavits… I had an RSI with an affidavit that took three hours. A few weeks later, I was sent out to get more info (and another affidavit) on the same case. Another three hours. So glad those days are mostly gone.

  17. Avatar

    My apologies for being so naïve to think that OPM wouldn’t deviate from the standard practice of designating all cases opened on or after 10/1/10 as FY11 cases, particularly for the most statistically important fiscal quarter since the December 2004 IRTPA. I can only guess that by doing so, OPM was somehow able to manipulate the numbers to show a better average case turnaround time for the 1st quarter of FY11.

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    It’s hard to say there is any deviation, but easy to say alot of confusion over the ESI guidlines. By reading the guidelines, it is pretty simple–now, the actual doing started rough as many cases were refiled because nobody knew what to actually do IAW the “GHOST” procedure we have just recently received.

  19. Avatar

    I’ve never seen a SPIN take less than hour, most, if not all of mine have been several hours. I guess it’s a difference in the Contract vs. Fed. work? Not sure. I was around in 2004 and still can’t recall a quick SPIN. I’ve spoken with several more seasoned Agents and they all miss the ‘old days’, that’s one thing they agree on for sure.

  20. Avatar

    OPM review needs to catch up. I had a case that I transmitted back in 07/10 reopened on me yesterday. Nothing major just a typo of dates. I should have wrote 07/10 but I wrote 07/01. I even looked at the rest of the case and it looks like the last item transmitted for the case was at the end of August 2010.

  21. Avatar

    You mean the OPM review that’s contracted to USIS?

  22. Avatar

    I was under the impression OPM had their own review as it was a conflict of interest for USIS to review the reports their investigator’s submit. Yes we still have our own internal review staff but then our cases are sent to OPM to review before going to the respective agency. Again I could be wrong because we as investigators are not informed of the changes that happen on the review side of the house. The RZ I had the other day did come from OPM as the contact info listed after the case message said OPM reviewer.

  23. Avatar

    I have no idea, just being snarky. Every RZ I’ve dealt with has been a USIS reviewer so I have no idea who’s doing what. I know there are both types. RZ’ing the discrepant date is total BS, talk about a waste of everyone’s time when a simple phone call or email would have fixed it within 24 hours. I’ve had the same RZ, it’s ridiculous.

    It seems like there is a new ‘flavor of the month’ the the review staff is instructed to zero-in on, the only problem is they never let the field know until it’s too late.

  24. Avatar

    Inv and Fed,

    Simply the same old thing when we are caught-up. They have more time and completely waste time on minor details. If you recall when the country was about 2-3 years backlogged, you had no refiles almost at all–At least I didn’t. It was because they had to expedite the cases, not because I was so perfect. Anyone who has been a criminal investigator or background inv knows that if the change or mistake does not change the meaning or intent of the action, leave it alone and sent it through. Hate to say, but expect more of these if the C/D is a month or more out.

  25. Avatar


    I’ve already seen more emails and phone calls about ‘clarifications’ in the last two weeks, than I’ve seen in the last two years.

  26. Avatar


    Same here–and all this time I thought I was just a superior report writer 🙂

  27. Avatar

    That’s okay. I got the seriously dumbest RZ ever today wanting information that was ALREADY IN MY REPORT and wanting extensions I HAD ALREADY MADE. It took everything I had not to be a real jerk in my response. Even though everything that was asked for was already covered in depth, I made it even MORE clear by adding ridiculous sentences onto every paragraph. When I retransmitted, I referenced the paragraphs where the requested information was already located in the report that had already been submitted. Now the report just reads poorly. But all the info is more clearly spelled out, so I guess that’s what matters…

    What is going on???

  28. Avatar

    As a side note, I received word today training on the new SF-86 should happen shortly but not before Feb.


  29. Avatar

    How professional of you to add all of those ridiculous sentences to every paragraph instead of just having the conversation with a colleague about your report. Just as you make mistakes on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis, case analysts make mistakes. If you don’t get a desired response from the person you are talking to, take it up your chain of command and let a DM, Tea leade, SAC, or manager talk to their manager about it so that an agreement can be made. What happened to just working together between us in the field and the case analyst or reviewers. I feel ashamed at the level of professionalism exuded by some of my colleagues in the field with other colleagues in our organization. It’s just the pits. Try being a better professional human being and you’ll have more success in life and in your career.

    And review is not completed by USIS contractors at this moment in time.

    And Mr. Henderson, OPM seems to be pretty transparent about timeliness when meeting congressional mandates and when not. Your skepticism with regards to OPM hiding the 10/1/10 SD cases in with the FY10 cases is pretty funny (but is inaccurate IMHO).

  30. Avatar

    Stay classy, Background Investigator.

    Good lord.

  31. Avatar

    This was a Keypoint case and the reopen was from OPM. I’ve pretty much been told we do as OPM says, regardless of what they’re asking for (tried to get the higher ups to help to no avail-as a contractor we have a bit more limited resources in cases like this-pretty much on our own)… But I’ll definitely try to be a “better professional human being” so I can “have more success in life and in my career”. Thanks for the advice!

  32. Avatar

    Background Investigator:

    Of course I’m only speculating. Only OPM knows whether they are playing fast and loose with their data. I believe OPM and other agencies occasionally twist the numbers to suit their purposes. I don’t know what you mean when you say that OPM is transparent. To date they have not answered (fulfilled or denied) any of my FOIA requests and one is over a year old.

    OPM provides data to other government agencies, congressional committees, and some trade/professional organizations. But they decide what numbers to present. One year they may present figures on case completion times based on all cases closed during that year. The next year they may present figures on case completion time based on all cases opened during that year.

    The 2010 IRTPA report listed data on cases closed during FY06, FY07, December 2008 and December 2009. The PAC was responsible for that report, but OPM is a member of the PAC. It makes one wonder about what happened from October 2007 to November 2008 and from January to November 2009. They had the all the data for FY08 and FY09 plus 1st quarter FY10 but chose to not to report it.

    While working at DIS, DSS, and OPM, there was often management pressure to do more in a selective manner during the last month or so of a calendar or fiscal year to improve stats. There was the phenomenon of “targeted cases” where investigators were pushed disregard suspense dates and to close “last lead” cases and cases within a certain range of case control dates. There is only one purpose for doing this.

    In my blog post of 17 May 2010, I describe a situation where DOD (in response to follow up questions from a Congressional subcommitte about security clearance investigations) reported that in 2009 they returned 129,558 security clearance investigations of the approximately 650,000 security clearance investigations completed by OPM for DOD. Some of those cases (perhaps half) were incomplete because the Subject was deployed and the case had to be reopened upon their return to the U.S. Assuming that a little less than half (about 60,000 cases) were returned due to difficencies not related to deployment, that would be about 9%. In response to the same question about security clearance investigations from the same Congressional subcommitte, OPM reported that only 0.08% of OPM cases were reopened due to quality deficiencies in 2009. But OPM’s answer wasn’t based on security clearance investigations. They used the total number of all types investigations completed by OPM that year (2,157,531) only about 650,000 of which were security clearance investigations. About a million of those 2,157,531 so called investigations were single agency checks.

    I could go on but it’s late and I’m tired.

  33. Avatar


    Good–get some rest; you have my head spinning with your stats 🙂

  34. Avatar


    You are right–it is exactly do as I say. There is not a person in this industry who could dispute that fact. We can contest the re-opens, but really who cares to–it takes way toooooo much time and time is not what we have much of in the field!!!!!

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    All inv’s

    On a side-note, I will say most of our company’s CRA’s are great and always helpful. Just remember when OPM sends a case back, they to are in the mix and think the same as we do. I for one would not want to be a CRA–probably the toughest job in the business.

  36. Avatar

    Just read on the AFCIA site that Kathy Dillaman recently announced her retirement. Not sure if it is true or not.

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    It’s true. She’s leaving.

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    I wonder if she will be one of the few former high ranking government security officials who doesn’t immediately take a job with a federal contractor that she had some control over as Associate Director of FISD.

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    Kathy Dillaman retired on 31 January, but she’s not leaving OPM. According to the Federal Times, she’s staying on for a year or two as a senior policy advisor to the OPM Director John Berry, presumably as a consultant.