Tier 5 Background Investigations Implemented to Take Place of SSBI
OPM has finally moved forward in implementing the Tier 5 background investigation product to replace the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI). ODNI and OPM had collaborated on developing the new standards back in 2012 in order to provide quality control and consistency on investigations for Top Secret clearances. The change to Tier 5 will take place effective October 1st and periodic reinvestigations will be known as a Tier 5R, replacing the SSBI-PR and PPR.
One of the more significant changes to Tier 5 investigations is the Continuous Evaluation (CE) concept, which reevaluates individuals on a random or continuous basis in between investigations. CE will include automated records checks for criminal history, civil court actions, financial liens, bankruptcies and credit checks, as well as a check of publicly accessible social media sites. Interestingly, as a result of adding the CE element to the Federal Investigative Standards Implementation Plan, OPM implies that Tier 5 investigations are designed to actually lessen the amount of field work required in non-issue cases by automating records checks. According to an ODNI cross-agency progress update, CE has already been successfully piloted with cleared employees at the State Department, as well as 250,000 DoD employees, and plans are in place to increase the number to 500,000 by December 2016.
The next major hurdle for ODNI/OPM is to issue agencies guidance on how to review the quality standards for investigations, implement consistent measures and metrics for investigations and adjudications, and improve the quality of oversight for federal and contractor investigators and adjudicators. Also on the table is an action to determine appropriate responses and actions for agencies to take when falsification by applicants is detected during the investigation process.