10.23.3 Personnel Security/Suitability for Employment and Personnel Security Operations

Manual Transmittal

May 09, 2019

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 10.23.3, Personnel Security, Personnel Security/Suitability Program to title change Suitability for Employment and Personnel Security Operations..

Material Changes

(1) IRM sections reformatted to improve readability in compliance with IRM 1.11.2.3. During this process, subsections were created and existing content moved to the appropriate subsection or content deleted due to duplication of subject matter. See Exhibit 10.23.3-1 for Crosswalk for previous and current IRM sections that were changed and Table of Contents for new subsections.

(2) 10.23.3.1 - Program Scope and Objectives. Changed title from “Purpose” to adequately reflect the content addressed in this subsection. Added or reorganized existing IRM content to this subsection to comply with new regulations concerning internal controls as described in 1.11.2. Added policy and program owners and contact information.

  1. 10.23.3.1.1 - Authority. Updated or added legal authorities pertaining to this IRM.

  2. 10.23.3.1.2 - Roles and Responsibilities. Added role and responsibility of Associate Director, PS.

  3. 10.23.3.1.3 - Commonly Used Acronyms. Added list of abbreviations.

  4. 10.23.3.1.4 - Security Terms and Definitions. Added definitions of Security Terms and an exhibit created 10.23.3- 1.

(3) 10.23.3.2 - Applicant Suitability Prescreening and Fingerprint Check

  1. 10.23.3.2.2 - Removed the word “Appointee” from the title. PS does not prescreen appointees - appointees are prescreened, approved applicants.

  2. 10.23.3.2.2.3 - Removed the word “employees” and replaced with “tentatively selected applicants” so that the information reads correctly.

  3. Removed sentence that states “prescreening investigative techniques vary depending on the subject’s position risk level.” The prescreen process is the same for all applicants regardless of the risk level.

(4) 10.23.3.4 - Scope of Position Designation System

  1. 10.23.3.3(b) - Added reference to 10.23.1 for information regarding National Security positions.

(5) 10.23.3.5 - Investigation Requirements

  1. 10.23.3.5 - Added guidance on investigation requirements for positions that are intermittent, seasonal, per diem and temporary.

(6) 10.23.3.6 - Investigative Tiers

  1. 10.23.3.6.2 - Updated to reflect all five tiers.

(7) 10.23.3.8 - Reinvestigation Requirements

  1. 10.23.3.8.2 - Removed sentence about personnel in low risk positions subject to a re-screening no later than 5 years, as there is currently no government-wide requirement to conduct reinvestigations of employees in low risk non-sensitive positions.

  2. 10.23.3.8.3 - Added timeframe to initiate investigation upgrades

(8) 10.23.3.9 - Suitability Investigations

  1. 10.23.3.9.3 - Added guidance pertaining to reciprocity

(9) 10.23.3.12 - NBIB Roles and Responsibilities

  1. 10.23.3.12.1 - Added NBIB Roles and Responsibilities

(10) 10.23.3.13 - IRS Debarment Policy and Delegation of Authority - new section added

  1. 10.23.3.13.1 - Imposing IRS Debarment – IRS Deciding Official

  2. 10.23.3.13.2 - Debarment Cases Referred to OPM by IRS

  3. 10.23.3.13.3 - Debarment Based on Suitability Determination

  4. 10.23.3.13.4 - Timing of Suitability Determinations

  5. 10.23.3.13.5 - Administrative Procedures

(11) 10.23.3.14 - Quality Assessment Standards – new section added

  1. 10.23.3.14.1 - Investigative Service Provider (ISP) Quality Control Programs

  2. 10.23.3.14.2 - Customer Agency Quality Assessment

(12) 10.23.3.15 - Adjudication of Background Investigations Conducted on Employees of PS and Human Capital Office Executive Team Members – new section added

(13) Throughout IRM – Reorganized subsections to improve readability and flow. Updated links, improved grammar and made other editorial changes.

Effect on Other Documents

This supersedes IRM 10.23.3, Personnel Security, Personnel Security/Suitability Program, dated June 28, 2016.

Audience

All Divisions and Functions

Effective Date

(05-09-2019)

Robin Bailey, Jr.
IRS Human Capital Officer

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose. This section is to provide the policies, guidelines and requirements for the administration of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) personnel security program relating to the initiation of suitability/security screening and/or investigations. Every position within Treasury/IRS requires that potential employees or incumbent employees undergo a suitability screening and/or investigation conducted by an appropriate government authority based upon the sensitivity of the position, and/or need for access to classified information, and requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-12) (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-24.pdf).

  2. The investigative requirements shall be consistent with the guidance provided by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Background investigations, conducted for suitability or security determination purposes constitute the first step in the process of ensuring the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and security among IRS employees, enabling the IRS to carry out its mission and ensure the integrity of its employees. Suitability reflects the standards required for employment with the Government in general, and the IRS in particular, with reference to a person's character, reputation and overall fitness.

  3. Audience. This IRM is for all IRS Divisions and functions.

  4. Policy Owner. Personnel Security (PS, Employment, Talent, and Security (ETS)

  5. Program Owner. PS is responsible for overseeing the Personnel Security Program and providing policy and procedures related to Personnel Security matters.

  6. Contact Information. Website at: HCO - ETS - Personnel - Who to Contact - http://hco.we.irs.gov/recruitstaff/personnelsecurity/Contact/Contact.shtml

Authorities

  1. The following authorities apply to personnel security and suitability investigations (http://hco.web.irs.gov/recruitstaff/PersonnelSecurity/ExecutiveOrders.shtml):

    1. Executive Order 10450, Security Requirements for Government Employment (April 27, 1953).

    2. Title 5 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 731, Suitability, Part 732, National Security Positions, and Part 736, Personnel Investigations

    3. Executive Order 12968, Access to Classified Information (August 2, 1995).

    4. 32 CFR Part 147, Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

    5. Treasury Order 102-17, Delegation of Authority Concerning the Personnel Security Program, (May 2, 1996).

    6. Treasury Security Manual TDP 15-71

    7. IRS Delegation Order 10-1, Authority to Perform Operating Functions Relating to Personnel Security.

    8. Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-12)

    9. Executive Order 13488, Granting Reciprocity on Excepted Service and Federal Contractor Employee Fitness and Reinvestigating Individuals in Positions of Public Trust (January 16, 2009)

    10. Executive Order 13764, Amending the Civil Service Rules, Executive Order 13488, and Executive Order 13467 to Modernize the Executive Branch-Wide Governance Structure and Processes for Security Clearances, Suitability and Fitness for Employment, and Credentialing, and Related Matters (January 23, 2017)

    11. Executive Order 13467, Reforming Processes Related to suitability for Government Employment, fitness for contractor Employees, and Eligibility for access to classified National Security Information (June 30, 2008)

    12. Treasury Order 102-01, Delegation of Authority Concerning Personnel Management, dated January 17, 2008 and reaffirmed February 5, 2013.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Responsibility for adjudication of the background investigations falls under the responsibility of the Associate Director, PS.

Commonly Used Acronyms

  1. Below are commonly used Personnel Security Acronyms
    ABIS - Automated Background Investigation System
    ALERTS - Automated Labor and Employee Relations Tracking System
    EO - Executive Order
    FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
    NBIB - National Background Investigations Bureau
    OPM - Office of Personnel Management
    OSP - Office of Security Programs
    PDT - Position Designation Tool
    PII - Personally Identifiable Information
    POC - Point of Contact
    PS - Personnel Security
    SAT - Security Awareness Training
    SBU - Sensitive But Unclassified
    SF - Standard Form
    TD P - Treasury Directive Publication
    TSM - Treasury Security Manual

Security Terms and Definitions

  1. For security terms and definitions, see

Applicant Suitability Prescreening and Fingerprint Check

  1. The Human Capital Office (HCO) Employment, Talent and Security (ETS) Personnel Security is responsible for suitability pre-screening in accordance with 5 CFR 731. Prescreening investigative steps vary depending on the subject’s position risk level. Steps may include: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check, credit check, Automated Labor and Employee Relations Tracking System (ALERTS) check, federal tax compliance check, citizenship check, review of required security forms, and a check to determine if an existing prior investigation can be used in lieu of requesting a new investigation.

  2. Employment Offices must employ every reasonable means available to obtain suitability information prior to the applicant's Enter on Duty (EOD) date. This applies to all applicants including:

    1. Career appointments

    2. Career-conditional appointments

    3. Temporary appointments

    4. Volunteer appointments

    5. Consultants

    6. Reinstatements

    7. Reemployed Annuitants

    8. Transfers (including CAO (Change in Appointing Office) or reassignment from another Treasury bureau)

    9. Student trainees/interns

    10. Excepted appointments

    11. Term Appointments

    Note:

    Suitability screening or any person deemed to be a “Contractor” is covered under IRM 10.23.2, Personnel Security, Contractor Investigations.

  3. All tentatively selected applicants must be fingerprinted and the results of the FBI fingerprint and/or criminal history name check must be received (including disposition information when applicable) and adjudicated prior to EOD. Neither the Employment Offices nor PS has the authority to deviate from this policy.

Credit Checks

  1. In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all Treasury/IRS applicants and employees, including contractor employees, for whom a credit check is initiated, will be notified in writing that credit reports may be obtained for employment purposes. Written consent must be obtained prior to any such reports being procured. Individuals must be notified promptly if information in their credit report may result in any unfavorable action, such as denial of a clearance, employment, or access authorization. The disclosure and authorization form (FCRA Form 13340) to be used for this purpose appears at http://hco.web.irs.gov/recruitstaff/PersonnelSecurity/PersonnelSecurityForms.shtm

Scope of Position Designation System

  1. Every IRS position, including those of contractors, must be designated with a suitability risk or national security sensitivity level. All employees who occupy a position, and all contractors who perform services in a like position, must meet personnel security/suitability standards commensurate with the position risk/sensitivity level of the position or services performed and are subject to personnel security background investigation requirements.

    1. Public Trust positions are designated at the High or Moderate risk level. Suitability risk levels commensurate with public trust responsibilities and attributes of the position as they relate to the efficiency of the service, and as described in Title 5 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 731.

    2. National Security positions are designated at the Special-Sensitive, Critical-Sensitive, or Noncritical-Sensitive sensitivity level. National Security sensitivity levels commensurate with the potential adverse impact upon the National Security that the incumbent could affect, as described in 5 CFR Part 732 (see IRM 10.23.1 for information on positions designated as National Security positions).

Position Risk Level Determinations

  1. Risk level determinations are made for every position when the position description is written and classified (see IRM 6.731.1.10.1, Suitability Position Risk Levels and IRM 10.8.1.4.1.2, PS-3 Personnel Screening and 10.8.1.4.13.2.1, PS-3 Personnel Screening – Control Enhancements.). For standard position descriptions, risk level determinations are made by the HCO Position Management/Classification Branch in conjunction with the function where the position is located. Risk levels for all Senior Executive Service and other Executive Resources Board covered positions are determined by the Office of Executive Services. A complete list of IRS position descriptions and position risk designations is available at http://hco.web.irs.gov/posclass/positiondesc/index.html.

Investigation Requirements

  1. Positions that are intermittent, seasonal, per diem, or temporary, not to exceed a total of 180 calendar days per year in either a single continuous appointment or series of appointments, do not require a background investigation as described in 5CFR 731.106(c)(1). The IRS, however, must conduct certain checks as it deems appropriate to ensure the suitability of the person. Please see chart below.

    Appointment Type Pre-Employment Fingerprint/Tax Check Low Risk Moderate Risk High Risk
    Temp < 180 days Required N/A N/A N/A
    Temp > 180 days Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Career Conditional (includes seasonal) Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Excepted Service Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Transfers Required (See Note) Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Reemployed Annuitants Required (See Note) Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Reinstatements Required (See Note) Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Consultant Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Term Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4
    Volunteer < 180 days Required N/A N/A N/A
    Volunteer > 180 days Required Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 4

Investigative Tiers

  1. OPM establishes the level of investigation required for each position risk designation. In FY 2015, the OPM implemented the following Federal Investigative Standards (FIN) issued by the Suitability and Security Executive Agents. These standards are used to determine eligibility for logical and physical access, suitability for U.S. Government employment, fitness to perform work for, or on behalf of U.S. Government as a contract employee, and eligibility for access to classified information or to hold a sensitive position.

  2. The standards consist of five tiers with an Expandable Focused Investigation (EFI) model at each tier as shown below:

    • Tier 1 (investigation for positions designated as low risk

    • Tier 2 (Investigation for non-sensitive positions designated as moderate risk-public trust positions)

    • Tier 3 (investigation for national security positions designated as non-critical sensitive and/or requiring access to Confidential or Secret information)

    • Tier 4 (investigation for high risk-public trust positions)

    • Tier 5 (investigation for national security positions - top secret, sensitive compartmented information, critical sensitive and special sensitive)

  3. The minimum investigative requirements for IRS public trust positions as recommended by the Department of the Treasury and OPM are:

    1. Tier 2 - Moderate Risk

    2. Tier 4 - High Risk

Position Risk Level for IT Privileged Access

  1. Personnel in Information Technology (IT) positions with ‘Privileged Access’ to IRS “sensitive” IT systems must be designated at the High-risk level and the requisite completed background investigation must be favorably adjudicated prior to obtaining privileged access.

  2. “Privileged Access” is defined as administrator or root access to DS, DSTEST and IRSNET domains (for example, IBM and application access Individual Master File [IMF]; Business Master File [BMF]; Customer Account Data Engine, [CADE/CADE2], Redesigned Revenue Accounting System [RRACS]; Integrated Financial System [IFS] and Corporate Files on Line [CFOL] that contain highly sensitive, critical information. Individuals in such positions (for example, system administrator, data base administrator, network administrator) with this level of access have major program responsibilities/duties and authorities that are critical to the IRS mission; and if information is compromised, it could potentially cause exceptionally serious damage to sensitive IT systems and to the national financial market.

Reinvestigation Requirements

  1. Personnel in positions designated as either High or Moderate risk are subject to reinvestigation no later than 5 years from the date of completion of their original investigation and every five years thereafter, unless the following occurs:

    1. prior to the next required reinvestigation, a separate investigation is conducted to determine a person’s eligibility (or continued eligibility) for access to classified information or to hold a sensitive position.

    2. a change in risk level and that investigation meets or exceeds the requirements for a public trust reinvestigation, a new public trust reinvestigation is not required. Such a completed investigation restarts the cycle for a public trust reinvestigation for that person.

  2. The minimum reinvestigation required is at least a (Tier 1) investigation. Personnel in Low Risk positions are not subject to reinvestigation while they remain in a Low Risk position. There is currently no government-wide requirement to conduct reinvestigations of employees in low-risk, non-sensitive positions.

  3. If there is a change in position risk or sensitivity level, i.e., an employee moving to a position at a higher risk or sensitivity level than the position he or she currently occupies, the following must occur:

    1. Employee must meet the investigative requirements of the position risk designation of the new position.

    2. Any upgrade in the investigation required for the new risk level should be initiated within 14 calendar days of the effective date of the new position designation.

  4. For an individual moving into a Critical-Sensitive or Special-Sensitive position, the investigation must be completed pre-appointment. Other than for Critical-Sensitive or Special-Sensitive levels, if the position risk or sensitivity of an incumbent’s position is increased due to an accretion of duties and responsibilities, the incumbent may remain in the position, but the investigation required by the higher risk/sensitivity level shall be initiated within 14 working days of the effective date of the new position designation.

  5. When an employee moves from a public trust position and who previously has completed the Standard Form (SF) 85P, Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, (and was investigated for that purpose) is subsequently determined to require a security clearance to perform assigned duties, the following shall be done:

    1. The public trust position designation must be re-designated to the appropriate national security designation level, commensurate with the required security clearance level, i.e., Top Secret, Secret or Confidential.

    2. The employee shall complete a SF 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, and meet the necessary security clearance investigative criteria.

    3. Managers must immediately initiate a personnel action to reassign employees to a national security Standard Position Description. Conversely, if national security duties/responsibilities are no longer required, the position’s trust level then reverts to a public trust risk designation.

  6. For an applicant occupying a position designated as a sensitive national security position (non-critical sensitive, critical sensitive, special sensitive), the position will be filled only by an individual for whom the requisite background investigation has been completed satisfactorily prior to appointment.

  7. For individuals occupying national security positions, the sensitivity/risk levels and minimum required investigations are:

    1. Special Sensitive (level 4) - Top Secret, Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI). Reinvestigation requires SSBI-Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) or Phased PR.

    2. Critical Sensitive (level 3) - Top Secret or Secret, Single Scope Background Investigation. Reinvestigation requires SSBI-PR or Phased PR.

    3. (Tier 3) Non-Critical Sensitive (level 2) - Secret or Confidential, SSBI for High Risk (level 6). Reinvestigation requires SSBI-PR or Phased PR.

    4. (Tier 3) Non-Critical Sensitive (level 2) - Secret or Confidential, Moderate Risk Investigation for Moderate Risk (level 5).

    5. (Tier 3) Non-Critical Sensitive (level 2) - Secret or Confidential, ANACI for Low Risk. Reinvestigation requires NACLC.

      Note:

      In situations where there is a change in status of the subject (Transfers, Reemployed Annuitants and Reinstatements, Employee to Contractor and vice versa) and a prior investigation is reciprocally recognized, the PS adjudicator may grant an exception for Pre-Employment Fingerprint Checks. The exception will be documented in the case file and reviewed for concurrence by the Associate Director, PS.

Suitability Investigations

  1. Investigations are used to determine suitability for employment in positions in the competitive service, excepted service and the Senior Executive Service.

  2. In accordance with the Treasury Security Manual, (chapter 2, section 1), employees appointed to any Treasury/bureau position are subject to a suitability investigation (1) upon initial appointment to the Federal service and (2) upon reappointment after a break in service of 24 or more months. Employees may also be subjected to investigation for access to national security information prior to or immediately following entrance-on-duty. Current Federal employees appointed to Treasury/IRS positions may be subjected to further investigation if the position to which they are being appointed carries a higher risk designation than that for which they were previously investigated. In general, the type of investigation to be requested is based on the position's sensitivity or risk level designation.

  3. PS will accept background investigations and adjudications conducted by other federal agencies unless it is determined that the background investigation or adjudication does not sufficiently address the Federal Investigative Standards (FIS) used by PS in determining suitability.

  4. Prior completed background investigations and final favorable adjudications will be accepted for a suitability determination when:

    1. The investigation meets or exceeds the requirements for the risk designation of the position to be filled;

    2. There has been no break in service of more than 24 months;

    3. The favorable adjudication was based on criteria set forth in 5 CFR 731

    4. The individual must have served continuously for at least one year in the position where they were favorably adjudicated; and

    5. there must be no new adverse information obtained in connection with the individual’s appointment that calls into question his/her suitability under 5 CFR 731.202.

  5. Reciprocity does not need to be accepted if the issues in the prior investigation are not compatible with the core duties of the new position.

    1. PS will search OPM’s investigative database to determine if reciprocity of a prior investigation applies when:
      1. The OPM Case Closing Transmittal for the Fingerprint Special Agreement Check (SAC) indicates a record under the ‘SII’ caption; and
      2. The Employment Office (EO) indicates that the applicant requires a completed background investigation

    2. The results of the reciprocity search will automatically populate into PS’ Automated Background Investigation System (ABIS). The EO will determine if the completed investigation can be reciprocally accepted based on whether the investigation meets or exceeds the position risk/sensitivity level and if there is no break in service of no more than 24 months.

  6. When feasible, all background investigations shall be completed and suitability decisions made within an appointee's first year of service.

  7. The scope and coverage area of the investigation is determined by the designated position risk/sensitivity level. The investigation is designed to reveal pertinent facts, past and present, about the character, honesty, trustworthiness, reputation, etc., of the applicant or employee. Upon completion of the final investigation, a suitability decision is made by PS after reviewing the results of the required background investigation.

  8. If the subject of an investigation separates or is no longer being considered for appointment, the investigation must be discontinued.

Personnel Security Responsibilities

  1. For appointees with less than one current continuous year of service, the Associate Director, Personnel Security, has delegated authority to make suitability determinations and propose suitability actions under 5 CFR Part 731, except for those cases that must be referred to the OPM. (See 5 CFR 731.103) (g). The Director for the office of Employment, Talent and Security will take suitability actions under 5 CFR Part 731, except for those cases that must be referred to the OPM. (See 5 CFR 731.103) (g).

  2. OPM has jurisdiction for investigations on all applicants and appointees serving a one (1) year probationary period and on any case under its authority as deemed necessary (5 CFR 731.202(b)(3), (4), or (8)).

Suitability Adjudication

  1. The suitability adjudication procedures for appointees (a person who has entered on duty and is in the first year of a subject-to-investigation appointment) with less than one current continuous year of service require that adjudications be made with reference to the person’s:

    1. Basic suitability for Federal employment;

    2. Suitability for employment in a specific position in terms of the position risk designation; and

    3. Suitability for employment in a specific position in terms of the person’s character or conduct.

  2. The suitability adjudication determination must be based on criteria listed in accordance with the OPM Suitability Processing Handbook.

Office of Personnel Management Roles and Responsibilities

  1. As outlined in 5 CFR 731.103, OPM has retained jurisdiction for adjudicating suitability in all competitive service cases involving the issues listed below. OPM has delegated certain aspects of these authorities to agencies, but retains overall responsibility:

    1. Evidence of material, intentional false statements, deception, or fraud in examination or appointment, including SES career appointments;

    2. Refusal to furnish testimony;

    3. Statutory or regulatory bar;

  2. NOTE: A non-selection, or cancellation of eligibility for a specific position based on an objection to an eligible or pass over of a preference eligible under 5 CFR 332.406, is not a suitability action even if it is based on reasons set forth in 5 CFR 731.202.

  3. OPM has jurisdiction for investigations on all applicants and appointees serving a one (1) year probationary period and on any case under its authority as deemed necessary (5 CFR 731.202(b)(3), (4), or (8).

National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Executive Order 13467 was amended to establish the roles and responsibilities of the NBIB in September 2016. The NBIB is established within the OPM with responsibility for conducting effective, efficient, and secure personnel background investigations pursuant to law, rule, regulation, or executive Order. The NBIB will be the primary service provider of government-wide background investigations for the Federal government with the mission of delivering background investigations to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the Federal workforce.

IRS Debarment Policy and Delegation of Authority

  1. The IRS has delegated authority from OPM to impose agency-specific debarment of applicants and appointees from IRS covered positions under Title, 5 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 731, Suitability, and Treasury Order 102-01, Delegation of Authority Concerning Personnel Management, dated January 17, 2008 and reaffirmed, February 5, 2013.

  2. The Director, Employment, Talent and Security (ETS) within the Human Capital Office has the delegated authority for denying or approving debarment from all or specific covered positions within the IRS under Delegation Order 6-25, dated November 9, 2017.

  3. This policy provides guidance when a suitability determination warrants:

    1. An agency debarment from all or specific covered positions within the IRS

    2. Government-wide debarment from all covered positions in the Federal Government

  4. The IRS can determine an applicant’s suitability at any time during the hiring process however, IRS must ensure that:

    1. the applicant is eligible for the position

    2. the applicant is to be among the best qualified

    3. and/or within reach of selection.

  5. If the individual is appointed, the minimum level of investigation must be conducted prior to determining suitability.

Imposing IRS Debarment - IRS Deciding Official

  1. When ETS deems an applicant or appointee unsuitable for employment based upon reasons in 731.202, Criteria for making suitability determinations, the IRS

    1. can impose a period of debarment of up to three years from the date of the unfavorable suitability determination that will deny that person examination for, and appointment to, either all, or specific covered positions within the IRS.

    2. must follow the suitability action procedures described in 5 CFR 731, subpart D in taking such action.

    3. can impose an additional period of debarment following the expiration of a period of debarment by IRS, but only after the person again becomes an applicant or appointee subject to the IRS suitability jurisdiction and His or her suitability is again determined in accordance with the procedures of 5 CFR 731.

  2. The additional debarment period may be based in whole or in part on the same conduct on which the previous debarment was based, when warranted, or new conduct. The IRS has sole discretion to determine the duration of any period of debarment (of up to an additional 3 years) it imposes under 5 CFR 731.205.

Debarment Cases Referred to OPM by IRS

  1. The OPM retains the authority to issue governmentwide debarments, where appropriate, and the authority to issue debarments in cases where there is evidence of specific types of conduct, which includes cases where there has been:

    1. material, intentional false statement

    2. deception or fraud in examination or appointment

    3. refusal to furnish testimony

  2. When there is evidence of the specific types of conduct, IRS must refer these cases to OPM. When the IRS determines that a government-wide debarment by OPM may be an appropriate action, it must refer the case to OPM for debarment consideration. The IRS must make these referrals prior to a proposed agency debarment, but only after sufficient resolution of the suitability issue(s), through subject contact or investigation, to determine if a government-wide debarment appears warranted. If a government-wide debarment is warranted:

    1. OPM will assume jurisdiction in the case and implement debarment action; if government-wide debarment is not warranted:

    2. OPM will return the case to IRS to complete the suitability determination.

Debarment Based on Suitability Determination

  1. The suitability determination involves deciding whether a person is suitable for employment in a covered position with the Federal Government. A qualified Adjudicator will evaluate all available information to determine if the individual is suitable for appointment or employment with the IRS based on the specific factors and additional considerations outlined in 5 CFR 731.202.

  2. The IRS must base its suitability determination on the presence or absence of one or more specific factors. Some of the specific factors that must be considered as a basis for finding a person unsuitable and taking a suitability action are:

    1. Misconduct or negligence in employment

    2. Criminal or dishonest conduct

    3. Alcohol abuse; and illegal drugs

  3. The IRS must also consider additional considerations to the extent the IRS, in its sole discretion, deems any of the pertinent to the individual case. Some of the additional considerations include:

    1. the nature of the position for which the person is applying or in which the person is employed

    2. seriousness/recency of the conduct; circumstances of the conduct

    3. person’s age when conduct occurred

Timing of Suitability Determinations

  1. IRS must ensure that the applicant is eligible for the position in which he or she applied, to be among the best qualified, and/or within reach of selection. If the individual is appointed:

    1. the requisite level of investigation must be conducted prior to determining suitability

  2. Unless the IRS makes a conditional offer of employment to an applicant, the IRS cannot make specific inquiries concerning an applicant’s criminal or credit history as set forth in 5 CFR 330.1300, Timing of Suitability inquiries in Competitive Hiring. However, in certain situations, agencies may have a business need to obtain information about the suitability or background of applicants earlier in the process. If so, agencies must request an exception from OPM. A preliminary review of the applicant’s suitability will occur prior to entry on duty and/or in advance of a formal background investigation to be initiated for federal employment as described in section 10.23.3.2(1). Information will be evaluated to determine the presence of any potential issues of a suitability concern.

  3. A review of an appointee’s suitability may occur after entry on duty, at the time the required background investigation is conducted. The investigative results, completed applications and security forms, and other appropriate materials will be reviewed to determine if the appointee is suitable to continue employment with the IRS.

Administrative Procedures

  1. When IRS proposes a debarment against an applicant or appointee, he or she is entitled to due process. IRS must:

    1. notify the individual in writing of the proposed debarment as set forth in 5 CFR 731.402

    2. explain in the written notice the reasons for the proposed debarment

    3. hand deliver or mail the written notice to the individual’s duty station or last known residence at least 30 days prior to the effective date of the proposed debarment; and the notice must provide the IRS point of contact (POC) to whom the individual should direct any reply or questions.

  2. The individual will be provided an opportunity to explain, mitigate, or refute the reasons for the proposed debarment and submit any evidence in support of the answer as described in 5 CFR 731.403. The individual’s written answer must be submitted to the IRS POC within 30 days from the date of the notice of proposed debarment.

  3. If IRS determines that the individual’s character and conduct warrants debarment, the individual will be notified in writing of the final decision to debar him or her from all or specific covered positions within the IRS. The notice will include:

    1. the detailed reasons for the debarment

    2. information about the individual’s right to appeal the final decision to the Merit System Protection Board

    3. and a copy of MSPB regulations, 5 CFR 1201 and the MSPB Appeal Form 185.

Quality Assessment Standards

  1. In January 2015, the Security and Suitability Executive Agents approved the Quality Assessment Standards for Background Investigations (QAS) which were distributed to federal agencies to be implemented in 2017. The QAS establishes federal guidelines for assessing the quality of national security and suitability background investigations based on the Federal Investigative Standards (FIS), implemented in December 2012. The establishment of quality assessment standards will facilitate the measurement and continued improvement of investigative quality across the Executive Branch.

  2. The QAS are established for background investigations to determine eligibility for:

    1. logical and physical access

    2. suitability for government employment

    3. eligibility for access to classified information and to hold a sensitive position

    4. fitness to perform work for/or on behalf of the government as a contract employee

  3. The QAS also applies to the background investigations of state, local, tribal and private sectors entities as defined in EO 13549.

  4. The QAS will establish how investigative quality will be defined, measured and assessed. The QAS are not designed to determine if or what adjudicative action will be taken, but to support the standardization of background investigations which in turn supports uniformity and reciprocity.

  5. The QAS are based on four category assessments that characterizes the investigation as:

    1. Complete - all coverage is obtained and all issues are resolved

    2. Justified – component requirement is missing but an adequate explanation is present

    3. Incomplete – component requirement is missing and no adequate explanation

    4. Insufficient – known issues not resolved and/or excessively poor reporting present

      Note:

      An investigation can be both incomplete and insufficient.

  6. When the quality of an investigation is evaluated, it will be assigned one of the four assessment categories outlined above. The only exceptions are the investigations that are assessed as both incomplete and insufficient.

Investigative Service Provider (ISP) Quality Control Programs

  1. To ensure mechanisms are in place to identify, correct and prevent quality issues during the investigation process, every ISP that conducts investigations under the FIS will have an internal Quality Control Program (QCP).

Customer Agency Quality Assessment

  1. IRS utilizes a quality assessment tool to document the quality of investigations which ensures the assessment of the investigative quality is consistent with federal guidelines for the QAS.

Adjudication of Background Investigations Conducted on Employees of PS and Human Capital Office Executive Team Members

  1. To ensure independence of the adjudication and referral process and to eliminate any appearance of a conflict of interest in the handling of investigative reports conducted on employees of PS and the HCO Executives to whom PS directly reports, the following procedures shall be affected:

    1. All such completed reports of investigation conducted for suitability or security purposes will be made available either electronically or in hard copy to the Office of Security Programs (OSP), Department of the Treasury by OPM.

    2. Treasury OSP adjudicates the case for suitability and clearance eligibility, as implemented in the common adjudicative standards set forth by the 5CFR 731 and 732.

    3. Treasury OSP sends an email notification regarding the completion of the investigation to Associate Director, PS.

    4. Upon notification from Treasury, PS updates the Automated Background Investigation System (ABIS) and the Personnel Investigations Processing System (PIPS)/Clearance Verification System (CVS) with security clearance and investigative information.

    5. PS briefs IRS employees and HCO Executive Team members whose cases are favorably adjudicated for access to classified information. PS provides Treasury OSP a copy of the signed SF-312 for recordation purposes.

    6. PS advises Treasury OSP of any change in status of PS employees or contractors.

    7. The final determination/adjudication will be referred to Labor Relations only when appropriate action is recommended. Treasury OSP will maintain a copy of the report of investigation and complete the Form 2077 (C) or TD F 15-03.2.

Criteria for Making Suitability Determinations

  1. PS will make post-investigation suitability determinations on employees with less than one current continuous year of service, using the specific factors contained in 5 CFR 731.202(b). The PS adjudicators, trained under OPM suitability guidelines, will make determinations based on a person's character and/or conduct that may have an impact on the integrity or efficiency of the service.

Suitability Due Process

  1. When an agency-initiated suitability action is taken against an appointee with less than one current continuous year of service, PS or OPM prepares a Notice of Proposed Action (5 CFR 731.402).

    1. PS must notify the appointee (hereinafter, the "respondent") in writing of the proposed action, the charges against the respondent, and the availability to request a review of the materials supporting the charges. The notice must outline the specific reasons for the proposed action and state the individual’s right to respond to the notice in writing. The notice must also inform the respondent of the time limit for the answer;

    2. The notice must inform the respondent that he or she may be represented by a representative of the respondent's choice and that if the respondent wishes to have such a representative, the respondent must designate the representative in writing;

    3. The agency must serve the notice of proposed action by mail or hand delivery no less than 30 days prior to the effective date of the proposed action. The notice must be served to the respondent's last known residence or duty station; and

    4. If respondent is employed in a position covered by this part when the notice is served, the respondent may remain in a pay status during the notice period.

  2. Respondent’s answers to the Notice of Proposed Action:

    1. The respondent may submit a written response, including affidavits, or other written evidence, up to 30 days of your receipt of notice; and

    2. The respondent may be represented by a representative of choice if designated in writing.

  3. Agency’s decision (5 CFR 731.404):

    1. The decision regarding the final action must be in writing, be dated, and inform the respondent of the reasons for the decision and that an unfavorable decision may be appealed in accordance with 5 CFR Part 731; and

    2. If the decision requires removal, the employing agency must remove the appointee from the rolls within 5 workdays of the agency's decision.

Appeal Rights

  1. When OPM or an agency acting under delegated authority takes a suitability action against a person, that person may appeal the action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (hereinafter “Board”), in accordance with 5 CFR 731 Subpart E.

  2. If the Board remands the case to OPM or the Agency for review, OPM or the Agency will determine whether the action taken is appropriate based on the sustained charges, and the determination will be final without any further appeal to the Board.

  3. The procedures for filing an appeal with the Board can be found here.

Personnel Security Files

  1. In accordance with Treasury Security Manual, TD P 15-71, Chapter I, Section 4, “Personnel Security Operations,” the Service will establish and maintain a personnel security file for employees in the following positions:

    1. national security positions;

    2. moderate and high-risk public trust positions; and

    3. low-risk/non-sensitive positions where unfavorable or derogatory information has been developed or received, unless the file is maintained by the OPM.

  2. All contractors are subject to the same requirements as Treasury/IRS employees with a file maintained for contractor personnel covered by the provisions of Chapter II, Section 2, of TD P 15-71 or who require a background investigation to meet the requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-12).

  3. The Service will not maintain a file on a contract employee granted access to classified information under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP), unless there is a requirement for additional investigation relating to access to Treasury/IRS facilities or automated information systems or access to classified information not covered under the NISP.

  4. Regarding favorable investigations on employees or contractor personnel in low or moderate risk positions, the Service will retain pertinent investigative data only, such as adverse derogatory information.

  5. All personnel security files are under the control of the Associate Director, PS.

Transfer of Personnel Security Records and Clearances between Treasury Bureaus

  1. In accordance with TD P 15-71, Chapter I, Section 5, when an employee transfers from the Treasury Agency office to a bureau or from one bureau to another, the complete personnel security file or a copy of it must be transferred from the personnel security office of the losing bureau to the personnel security office of the gaining bureau. Exception: when the file of an IRS employee contains tax information, the tax information is not transferred outside the IRS.

Safeguarding and Handling Investigative Reports

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in background investigations, records, and operations shall be carefully safeguarded to protect the interests of both the individual and the Service, pursuant to requirements of the Privacy Act. Unless classified at a higher level, personnel security information must be afforded the same degree of protection as material identified as "Controlled Unclassified Information" and must be used only for authorized official purposes. When not in use, personnel security information must be stored in a General Services Administration approved security container or in an equally secure area. All electronic records shall be safeguarded in accordance with IRM 10.5.8.

  2. Reports containing classified information must be protected in accordance with Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information and appropriate Treasury regulations.

  3. Personnel security investigation information requested by the subject of an investigation will be processed according to established procedures under provisions of the Privacy Act or the Freedom of Information Act, as appropriate. Requests for the release of the results of any personnel security investigation should be referred to the Treasury/bureau or non-Treasury agency that conducted it. When another agency requests a copy of a PS report of investigation under the routine use provision of the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a), for the purpose of suitability or the granting of a security clearance, the request must be made in writing to IRS, Personnel Security, PA Section, 5000 Ellin Road, Room C1-530, Lanham, MD 20706 or by fax to 855-696-0378.

Crosswalk - IRM 10.23.3 Previous and Current Subsections

Some of this IRM’s subsections were renumbered, retitled and the content reorganized to improve readability and flow. The table below displays the changes for previous and current subsections.

Previous Section Numbering Current Section Numbering
10.23.3.1 Purpose 10.23.3.1 Program Scope and Objectives
10.23.3.2 Authorities 10.23.3.1.1 Authorities
10.23.3.3 Appointee/Applicant Suitability Prescreening and Fingerprint Check 10.23.3.1.2 Roles and Responsibilities
10.23.3.4 Position Sensitivity Risk Designation Levels 10.23.3.1.3 Commonly Used Acronyms
10.23.3.5 Suitability Investigations 10.23.3.1.4 Security Terms and Definitions
10.23.3.6 Office of Personnel Management Roles and Responsibilities 10.23.3.2 Applicant Suitability Prescreening and Fingerprint Check
10.23.3.7 Personnel Security Responsibilities 10.23.3.3 Credit Check
10.23.3.8 Suitability Adjudication 10.23.3.4 Scope of Position Designation System
10,23.3.9 Criteria for Making Suitability Determinations 10.23.3.4.1 Position Risk Level Determinations
10.23.3.10 Suitability Due Process 10.23.3.5 Investigation Requirements
10.23.3.11 Appeal Rights 10.23.3.6 Investigative Tiers
10.23.3.12 Investigations for National Security Clearances (Top Secret, Secret and Confidential) 10.3.3.3.7 Position Risk Level for IT Privileged Access
10.23.13 Credit Checks 10.23.3.8 Reinvestigation Requirements
10.23.14 Safeguarding and Handling Investigative Reports 10.23.3.9 Suitability Investigations
  10.23.3.10 Personnel Security Responsibilities
  10.3.3.10.1 Suitability Adjudication
  10.23.3.11 Office of Personnel Management Roles and Responsibilities
  10.23.3.12 National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) Roles and Responsibilities
  10.23.3.13 IRS Debarment Policy and Delegation of Authority
  10.23.3.13.1 Imposing IRS Debarment - IRS Deciding Official
  10.23.3.13.2 Debarment Cases Referred to OPM by IRS
  10.23.3.13.3 Debarment Based on Suitability Determination
  10.23.3.13.4 Timing of Suitability Determinations
  10.23.3.13.5 Administrative Procedures
  10.23.3.14 Quality Assessment Standards
  10.23.3.14.1 Investigative Service Provider (ISP) Quality Control Programs
  10.23.3.14.2 Customer Agency Quality Assessment
  10.23.3.15 Adjudication of Background Investigations Conducted on Employees of Personnel Security and Human Capital Executive Team Members
  10.23.3.16 Criteria for Making Suitability Determinations
  10.23.3.17 Suitability Due Process
  10.23.3.18 Appeal Rights
  10.23.3.19 Personnel Security Files
  10.23.3.20 Transfer of Personnel Security Records and Clearances between Treasury Bureaus
  10.23.3.21 Safeguarding and Handling Investigative Reports
  Exhibit 10.23.3-1 Crosswalk - IRM 10.23.3 Previous and Current Subsections
  Exhibit 10.23.3-2 Security Terms and Definitions

Security Terms and Definitions

Below are the Security Terms and Definitions.

Security Term Definition
(1) Access Authority that allows an individual to obtain knowledge of, or access to, classified information, materials, or work areas.
(2) Adjudication An examination of a person’s character or conduct over time, resulting in a favorable or unfavorable determination of their employment suitability, eligibility for access to classified information, materials, or areas, or for their retention in Federal employment.
(3) Adjudicator A trained personnel security specialist who evaluates back- ground investigations and other pertinent information to make employment suitability and national security eligibility determinations.
(4) Adverse Information Information that adversely reflects on a person’s character, integrity or reliability that suggests that their ability to safeguard sensitive information may be impaired, or that their employment and national security eligibility is not in the best interest of Treasury/IRS. For example, a history of misbehavior, i.e., drug abuse, criminal activity, employment misconduct, etc.
(5) Applicant A person who is being considered or has been considered for employment.
(6) Appointee A person who has entered on duty and is in the first year of a subject-to-investigation appointment.
(7) Background Investigation An official examination of facts or other pertinent information that covers a defined period of normally no more than 10 years. The information is compiled from a review of various records, interview with the subject, and interviews with persons who have knowledge of the subject. The information collected must be sufficient to allow an affirmative or negative determination of a person’s eligibility and suitability to work for the Federal Government.
(8) Classified Information Information requiring protection against unauthorized disclosure (marked CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, or TOP SECRET when in documentary form, to indicate its classified status), pursuant to Executive Orders 12958 and 12968.
(9) Core Duty A Continuing responsibility that is of particular importance to the relevant covered position or the achievement of an agency’s mission.
(10) Covered Position A position in the competitive service, a position in the excepted service where the incumbent can be noncompetitively converted to the competitive service, and a career appointment to a position in the Senior Executive Service.
(11) Credit Check A credit history report conducted on the subject of a background investigation. The report contains financial information collected from creditors, lenders, and public records and organized by credit bureaus or other credit reporting services.
(12) Employee A person who has completed the first year of a subject-to-investigation appointment.
(13) Federal Tax Compliant Federal tax returns are timely and accurately filed and timely payment of taxes without penalties or interest.
(14) Fingerprint Check Also referred to as a criminal history record or rap sheet - Is a listing of specific information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service.
(15) Foreign National An individual who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident authorized to reside in the U.S.
(16) High Risk Position A final position designation assessment reflecting the potential for exceptionally serious impact, critical to an agency program or mission or the integrity or efficiency of the service.
(17) Low Risk Position A final position designation assessment reflecting the potential for limited impact on an agency program or mission or the integrity or efficiency of the service.
(18) Material In reference to a statement, one that is capable of influencing, affects, or has a natural tendency to affect, an official decision even if OPM or an agency does not rely upon it.
(19) Moderate Risk Position A final position designation assessment reflecting the potential for moderate to serious impact on an agency program or mission or the integrity or efficiency of the service.
(20) National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) Established within OPM as the primary service provider for conducting effective and efficient background investigations for employment suitability or fitness to perform work for or on behalf of the Federal Government.
(21) National Security Position A position that (1) involves activities of the Government that are concerned with the protection of the nation from foreign aggression or espionage, including development of defense plans or policies, intelligence or counter intelligence activities, and related activities concerned with the preservation of the military strength of the United States, and/or (2) requires regular use of, or access to, classified information.
(22) Office of Personnel Management (OPM) OPM is an independent Federal agency that works in numerous broad areas to recruit and retain a first-rate Federal workforce. One function is to provide investigative services for Federal agencies to use as the basis for employee suitability, contractor fitness, and security clearance eligibility across the Federal Government.
(23) Periodic Reinvestigation An investigation that is required every five years for contractor employees who perform work for or on behalf of the Federal Government and are in positions designated high and moderate risk.
(24) Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Also considered Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information. Information that is linked or linkable to an individual that must be protected to prevent the possibility of identity theft or invasion of privacy.
(25) Personnel Security (PS) An organization comprised of security specialists that are engaged in the formulation and application of security policies and procedures involving the trustworthiness and loyalty of persons employed with the Federal Government in sensitive and non-sensitive positions.
(26) Position Designation tool (PDT) A logical questionnaire-based system designed by OPM to guide agencies in determining the proper level of investigation and screening required based on an assessment of risk and national security sensitivity.
(27) Position Sensitivity A risk designation based on an assessment of the degree of damage that an individual, by virtue of the occupancy of a position, could have an effect on the “efficiency of the service.”
(28) Privileged Access Administrator or root access to DS, DSTEST and IRSNET domains that contain highly sensitive, critical information. See IRM 10.23.2.5(4) for examples of DS and IRSNET domains.
(29) Public Trust Position The category of positions, at the moderate or high risk levels involving a significant degree of public trust (such as policy making or major program responsibilities, fiduciary responsibility, law enforcement positions, public safety and health duties).
(30) Reciprocity Recognition and acceptance of prior favorable fitness determination by another federal agency, without further processing when the determination was based on equivalent criteria used by gaining agency; i.e., investigation meets or exceeds required position risk level, investigation completed within last two years, no break in service since the last favorable determination.
(31) Security Clearance Certification issued by a designated personnel security official or designee that grants an individual access to classified information, on a need-to-know basis, up to the required classification level (Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential) to perform official duties.
(32) Security Items Items that must be stored in a locked container, security container, or a secure room. These items include, but not limited to security devices/records, computer equipment, Identification media. For details, see IRM 10.4.1.5.1, Minimum Protection Standards.
(33) Sensitive but Unclassified Information (SBU) Any sensitive information (including tax and tax-related information) that requires protection due to the risk and magnitude of loss or harm to the IRS or the privacy to which individuals are entitled under Section 552a of Title 5, United States Code (the Privacy Act), which could result from inadvertent or deliberate disclosure, alteration, or destruction.
(34) Sensitive Position Positions that the occupant could bring about, by virtue of the nature of the position, a material adverse effect on the national security, whether the occupant has access to classified information.
(35) Suitability Action An action described in 5 CFR 731.203 (cancellation of eligibility, removal, cancellation of reinstatement eligibility, debarment) that may be taken by OPM or an agency with delegated authority under the procedures in 5 CFR 731 subparts C and D.
(36) Suitability Determination A decision by OPM or an agency with delegated authority that a person is suitable or is not suitable for employment in covered positions in the Federal Government or a specific Federal agency.
(37) U.S. Citizen A person born in the U.S. or its territories, or born in a foreign country to U.S. born parents are U.S. citizens by birth. A person not born in the U.S. can voluntarily become a naturalized U.S. citizen once all eligibility requirements are met. Also, a minor can derive U.S. citizenship following the naturalization of one of both parents.