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10.23.3  Personnel Security/Suitability Program

Manual Transmittal

June 28, 2016


(1) This transmits revised IRM 10.23.3, Personnel Security, Personnel Security/Suitability Program.

Material Changes

(1) In, added a list of possible prescreening investigative steps which vary depending on the subject’s position risk level.

(2) In

  • Added reference to IRM 6.731.1 for suitability processing details.

  • Clarified all investigation types according to the latest Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidelines.

  • Defined public trust and national security positions.

  • Added position designation and investigation requirements for personnel in Information Technology (IT) positions with privileged access to IRS “sensitive” IT systems.

  • Added guidance on movement from public trust position to national security position.

  • Added new Tier Investigation structure.

  • Added new re-screening requirement for low risk positions

(3) In, changed some responsibilities regarding reciprocity checks and added much more detail on reciprocity checks and processing.

(4) Added 10.23.6 and 10.23.7, defined OPM roles and responsibilities and Personnel Security (PS) responsibilities.

(5) Added 10.23.8 and 10.23.9, explaining the suitability adjudication process.

(6) Added 10.23.10 and 10.23.11, explaining suitability due process and appeal rights.

(7) In, updated FOIA/PA request mailing address and provided fax number.

(8) Renumbered applicable sections thereafter.

(9) Editorial changes were made throughout IRM 10.23.3. The web addresses, IRM and legal resources were checked and corrected, where necessary.

Effect on Other Documents

This supersedes IRM 10.23.3, Personnel Security, Personnel Security/Suitability Program, dated November 15, 2011.


All divisions and functions

Effective Date


Michelle Conway
Acting Director, Employment, Talent and Security  (04-17-2008)

  1. The purpose of 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) (

  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.  (04-17-2008)

  1. The following authorities apply to personnel security and suitability investigations (

    1. Executive Order 10450, Security Requirements for Government Employees (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 ( %20Security%20Manual.pdf).

    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)  (06-28-2016)
Appointee/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


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

  3. All employees 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.  (06-28-2016)
Position Sensitivity Risk Designation Levels

  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 effect, as described in 5 CFR Part 732.

  2. 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, PS-3 Personnel Screening and, PS-3 Personnel Screening – Control Enhancements.). For standard position descriptions, risk level determinations are made by the HCO Position Management/Classification Office 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

  3. 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. The standards consist of five tiers with an Expandable Focused Investigation (EFI) model at each tier. Currently only Tier 1(investigation for positions designated as low risk), Tier 2 (investigation for non-sensitive positions designated as moderate risk public trust positions) and Tier 3 (investigation required for positions designated as non-critical sensitive and/or requiring access to Confidential or Secret information) have been implemented. Tier 4 (Investigation for high risk public trust) and Tier 5 (investigation for national security – top secret, sensitive compartmented information, critical sensitive and special sensitive), currently waiting on implementation guidance from OPM. 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 – Minimum Background Investigation (MBI).

    2. High Risk – Background Investigation (BI).

  4. 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. Privileged Access is defined as administrator level access to DS and IRSNET domains and other IRS sensitive IT systems. Individuals in such positions (for example, system administrator, data base administrator, network administrator) have major program responsibilities/duties with broad scope and authority that are critical to the IRS mission, and could potentially cause exceptionally serious damage to sensitive IT systems.

  5. 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. The minimum reinvestigation required is at least a (Tier 1) National Agency Check with Law and Credit (NACLC). Personnel in Low Risk positions are now subject to a re-screening no later than 5 years from the date of completion of their original investigation and every five years thereafter.

  6. 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 employee must meet the investigative requirements of the position risk designation of the new position.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    4. Conversely, if national security duties/responsibilities are no longer required, the position’s trust level then reverts to a public trust risk designation.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


      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.  (06-28-2016)
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. Reciprocity of background investigations shall be used for all applicants when there is a record of a prior suitability or security investigation that was favorably adjudicated; the investigation meets or exceeds the requirements for the risk designation of the position to be filled; there has been no break in service of more than 24 months; and the favorable adjudication was based on the criteria set forth in 5 CFR 731. The individual must have served continuously for at least one year in the position where they were favorably adjudicated, and there must be no new information obtained in connection with the person’s appointment that calls into question his/her suitability under 5 CFR 731.202. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. If the subject of an investigation separates or is no longer being considered for appointment, the investigation must be discontinued.  (06-28-2016)
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;

    4. Suitability actions taken once an employee under 5 CFR Part 731 for suitability reasons after the first year of employment is completed under the original investigation of appointment.


      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.

  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)).  (06-28-2016)
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).  (06-28-2016)
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.  (06-28-2016)
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.  (06-28-2016)
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.  (06-28-2016)
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 at  (11-20-2008)
Investigations for National Security Clearances (Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential)

  1. The employment and retention of any employee in a national security position must be consistent with the interests of national security. At the IRS, that determination is related specifically to the individual's need for access to classified national security information, also referred to as a need for a security clearance.

  2. Security clearances to permit access to classified information (Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret) are granted by the Associate Director, Personnel Security, in accordance with Executive Order 12968 or any successor order.

  3. Completion of a favorable background investigation does not in itself confer access to classified information. An individual is eligible for access to classified information provided:

    1. The individual has been determined to be eligible based on a favorable completed background investigation be eligible after completion; and

    2. It is determined that an individual requires access to classified information in order to perform official duties in a lawful and authorized Government function referred to as “need-to-know.”

  4. The responsibility for determining whether an employee's official duties require possession of, or access to, classified information and whether the employee has been granted the appropriate security clearance and has a bona-fide "need-to-know" rests with the official who will be authorizing access to the information, and not with the prospective recipient.

  5. The responsibility for determining whether an employee's official duties require possession of, or access to, classified information and whether the employee has been granted the appropriate security clearance and has a bona-fide "need-to-know" rests with the official who will be authorizing access to the information, and not with the prospective recipient.

  6. The reinvestigation requirement covers all incumbents in national security positions.

  7. Requests for national security clearances should be referred to Personnel Security. Instructions for submitting requests can be found on the IR Web at

  8. For National Security position sensitivity levels, see section item 10.  (04-17-2008)
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  (11-20-2008)
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. Reports containing classified information must be protected in accordance with Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information and appropriate Treasury regulations.

  2. 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.

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