10.23.3  Personnel Security/Suitability Program

Manual Transmittal

November 15, 2011


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

Material Changes

(1) In

  • Added reference to IRM 6.731.1 for suitability processing details.

  • Added Reemployed Annuitants to list of those requiring suitability screening. A Reemployed Annuitant's service must now meet the 24 month break in service requirement and a prior investigation must meet reciprocity guidance to be used in lieu of a new background investigation.

  • Re-emphasized that all types of applicants must be screened before entering on duty.

  • Clarified fingerprint information based upon HSPD-12.

(2) In

  • Clarified all investigation types according to the latest OPM guidelines.

  • Added prescreening/suitability investigation requirements for Transfers, Reemployed Annuitants and Reinstatements.

(3) In

  • Removed the item referring to Personnel Security (PS) conducting investigations.

  • Added procedures/information on reciprocity (accepting other agencies’ favorably adjudicated background investigations).

(4) 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 20, 2008.

This supersedes Chief Human Resources Memorandum entitled Pre-Employment Screening Requirements for Re-Employed Annuitants, dated May 10, 2001.


All divisions and functions

Effective Date


Raymona L. Stickell
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 regarding 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.  (04-17-2008)

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

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

    2. 5 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. Security 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 ( http://intranet.treas.gov/securitymanual/td15-71/ ).

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

    8. Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-12) ( http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-24.pdf).

    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) http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-1574.pdf  (11-15-2011)
Appointee/Applicant Suitability Prescreening and Fingerprint Check

  1. Human Capital Office (HCO) Employment, Talent and Security (ETS) Employment Office (EO) is responsible for suitability prescreening in accordance with IRM 6.731.1.

  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

    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. No Employment Office has the authority to deviate from this policy.  (11-15-2011)
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 sensitivity level of the position or services performed and are subject to personnel security background investigation requirements.

  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, Background Investigations.). 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 http://hco.web.irs.gov/posclass/positiondesc/index.html.

  3. OPM establishes the level of investigation required for each position risk. The minimum investigative requirements for IRS positions as recommended by the Department of the Treasury and OPM are:

    1. Low Risk – National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI);

    2. Moderate Risk - Moderate Risk Background Investigation (MBI);

    3. High Risk – Background Investigation (BI).

  4. Personnel in positions designated High Risk are subject to a Periodic Reinvestigation no later than five years after placement and at least once every succeeding five years.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

    1. Special Sensitive (level 4) - Top Secret, Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI). Reinvestigation requires SSBI-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. Non-Critical Sensitive (level 2) - Secret or Confidential, SSBI for High Risk (level 6). Reinvestigation requires SSBI-PR or Phased PR.

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

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

    Investigation Requirements
    Appointment Type Pre- Employment Fingerprint /Tax Checks Low Risk Moderate Risk High Risk
    Temp < 180 days Required N/A N/A N/A
    Temp > 180 days Required NACI MBI BI
    Career Conditional (includes seasonals) Required NACI MBI BI
    Excepted Service Required NACI MBI BI
    Transfers Required
    (See Note)
    Reemployed Annuitants Required
    (See Note)
    Reinstatements Required
    (See Note)
    Consultant Required NACI MBI BI
    Term Required NACI MBI BI
    Volunteer < 180 days Required N/A N/A N/A
    Volunteer >180 days Required NACI MBI BI


    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 PS Manager.  (11-15-2011)
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, 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; and there has been no break in service of more than 24 months.

  4. HCO, ETS, EO will request a reciprocity check from PS when the individual cites prior government service. Reciprocity determinations will be requested from PS through the following web page form: http://hco.web.irs.gov/recruitstaff/PersonnelSecurity/OnlineForms/PriorInvestForm.asp. PS will research the request and respond to the Employment Office to advise if a new investigation is required.

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

  6. The scope and coverage area of the investigation is determined by the designated position 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.

  7. If the subject of an investigation separates or is no longer being considered for appointment, the investigation must be discontinued.  (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 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 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 materials. An individual is eligible for access to classified information provided:

    1. the individual has been determined to be trustworthy after completion and review of the required investigation; and

    2. it is determined that access to classified information is essential to the accomplishment of lawful and authorized Government purposes, referred to as a "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 providing access to the information, and not with the prospective recipient.

  5. Government contractors, licensees, grantee employees, or other non- Governmental personnel requiring access to classified information in the performance of their duties are subject to the same access requirements and standards as Federal employees.

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

  7. Requests for national security clearances should be referred to PS Policy and Programs. Instructions for submitting requests can be found on the IR Web at http://hco.web.irs.gov/recruitstaff/PersonnelSecurity/NationalSecurity.shtml.

  8. For position sensitivity levels, see section item 7.  (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 (Form 13340) to be used for this purpose appears at http://publish.no.irs.gov/forms/internal/pdf/35089a03.pdf.  (11-20-2008)
Safeguarding and Handling Investigative Reports

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in personnel security 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 10.8.1 and IRM 10.8.8. 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, FOIA/PA Section, 5025 Leesburg Pike, Suite 510, Bailey's Crossroads, VA 22041.

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