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CHAPTER 4. ADJUDICATION STANDARDS AND ACTIONS

1. Suitability and Security Adjudication Standards.

A. Suitability Standards. The procedure for determining a person’s suitability for Federal employment is the adjudicative process which involves an assessment of past and present conduct as it may indicate probable future actions with adverse impact on the efficiency of the service. This assessment is based upon record data and personal testimony developed through investigation or inquiries. The suitability adjudication criteria provided by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will be used by the Security Management Office as appropriate in determining employment or retention of employment in sensitive positions and contractor positions. The assessment is made to establish a reasonable expectation that the employment or continued employment of a person either would or would not promote the efficiency of the Federal service. A reasonable expectation that the employment would not promote the efficiency of the service is established when an adverse “nexus” or connection can be shown between the conduct in question and the job performance of the person or others (employees, employing agency, other agencies) in the USGS, i.e., the conduct itself would have a direct, adverse effect, or indicates a potential for future actions by the person that would adversely impact on job performance. Each investigative case must be adjudicated within 90 days of receipt of the results unless additional information has been formally requested to be supplied by OPM. If the case has been reopened to obtain additional pertinent information, the case is to be adjudicated within 90 days of the receipt of the additional information.

(1) Designated individuals in the servicing personnel offices will adjudicate background investigations for all applicants and employees applying for or in High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Low Risk public trust positions in the USGS.

(2) The Security Management Office will adjudicate background investigations for all applicants and employees at the USGS applying for positions designated as Special-Sensitive, Critical-Sensitive, and Noncritical-Sensitive. In addition, the Security Management Office will adjudicate background investigations for all USGS contractor individuals requiring background investigations as determined by Federal directives.

B. Security Standards. Executive Order 10450 and Executive Order 12968 enumerate criteria in evaluating the conduct of individuals for determining the employment or retention of employment in sensitive positions involving access to classified information. The Security Management Office, when adjudicating conduct using security standards, will determine if the conduct indicates that employment or continued employment of the person would pose a risk for damage to the interests of national security. In such cases, the person must be denied appointment or removed from employment, even though such action is not warranted under the suitability criteria. The adjudicative process is attuned to any indication of unreliability, untrustworthiness, lack of dependability, potential for subornation or blackmail, dishonesty, or disregard for the law and established authority. This assessment will be based upon a completed and current investigation and criteria provided by OPM. Each investigative case must be adjudicated within 90 days of receipt of the results unless additional information has been formally requested to be supplied by OPM. If the case has been reopened to obtain additional pertinent information, the case is to be adjudicated within 90 days of the receipt of the additional information.

2. Adjudication Actions.

A. General.

(1) The authority for the Security Management Office and servicing personnel offices to evaluate investigative and derogatory information relating to the suitability criteria cited in 5 CFR Part 731 and to take an adverse suitability disqualification action from the standpoint of the efficiency of the Federal service is included in 5 U.S.C. 3301, 7301, 7502, and 7512.

(2) The authority for the Security Management Office to evaluate investigative and derogatory information relating to the security criteria citied in 5 CFR Part 732 and to deny appointment or remove from employment is included in 5 U.S.C. 7532. The use of the removal procedures authorized by 5 U.S.C. 7532 will be limited to cases in which the interests of the national security are involved. Maximum use will be made of normal removal procedures of the Office of Personnel Management where such procedures are adequate and appropriate to achieve the purpose of this chapter.

(3) Whenever information is developed or received indicating that the retention of an individual in a sensitive position may not be clearly consistent with the efficiency of the Federal Government and/or interests of national security, the official supervisor of record or servicing personnel office will forward this information to the Security Management Office. The Security Management Office will initiate the investigation required to resolve derogatory information which cannot be adjudicated through personal interview.

B. Favorable Determination. If the final suitability and security adjudication is favorable, the Security Management Office will sign the OPM Certification of Investigation Notice for filing on the permanent side of the Official Personnel Folder (OPF). Also when required, the Security Management Office will sign the OPM
OFI-79A, Report of Agency Adjudicative Action on OPM Personnel Investigations, and return the form to OPM. As part of a favorable determination, the Security Management Office may require that a code of conduct briefing be provided to the subject on such issues as alcohol, drug, and financial matters.

C. Unfavorable Determination. If the final adjudication is unfavorable, the individual will be provided administrative due process as delineated below.

(1) Applicants. The Security Management Office will follow the procedures outlined below when unfavorable security actions are taken based on the results of an investigation with regard to an applicant to a sensitive position of the Federal service.

(a) The individual will be provided a written Statement of Reasons (SOR) for the decision, which will be stated as specifically as security considerations will permit, and if applicable, a USGS Privacy Act Notice for Security Interviews, Figure 4-1. The USGS Security Management Office will prepare a summary from the investigative file to be included in the SOR, but will not include information that: (1) is classified (i.e., Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential), even if the subject has a security clearance; (2) would reveal the identity of a source granted confidentiality; (3) is protected sensitive medical information as denoted in 5 CFR 297.205; or (4) is otherwise exempt from release by the Privacy Act. If the individual requests a copy of the investigative report, the employee must contact the Freedom of Information Act Officer/Privacy Act Officer of the agency that conducted and/or created the original investigative report. The address will be provided by the USGS Security Management Office. The USGS Security Management Office cannot provide a copy of the investigative report to the individual. The individual should be advised that he/she may obtain legal counsel or other assistance at his/her own expense.

(b) An opportunity shall be provided to the individual to respond to the SOR, and to request a review of the determination. The written response must be submitted within 45 days from the date the person received and signed for the SOR. (Upon request by the person and approval of the USGS Security Management Office, if warranted, up to an additional 30 days may be granted.) If the individual does not respond to the SOR, the person shall be notified that a timely response was not received, and their eligibility for access to classified information or performance of sensitive duties is hereby denied/revoked as indicated in 4.2.C.(1)(d) and (e) below.

(c) A review of the documentation provided by the person, if applicable, before a final bureau determination.

(d) A Letter of Decision will be provided to the individual that shall include:

If the decision is unfavorable, the individual shall be informed as to the rights to appeal that decision to the Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB). The PSAB is a high level panel, appointed by the Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget, which shall be comprised of at least three members, two of whom shall be selected from outside the security field. The identity of the members of the PSAB shall not be revealed.

(e) If the individual chooses not to appeal to the PSAB, the determination made by the USGS Security Officer shall be the final decision and is not subject to further appeal.

(2) Employees. The Security Management Office will follow the procedures outlined below when unfavorable security actions are taken based on the results of an investigation with regard to an employee in a sensitive position of the Federal service.

(a) An employee may be suspended without pay before employment is terminated under 5 U.S.C. 7532 and Executive Order 10450. Under other authorities available to the Department, an employee may be reassigned or detailed temporarily to a Non-Sensitive position, or a position with the sensitive duties withheld, in which the interests of national security cannot be adversely affected by the employee. In the event of reassignment or detail, if the USGS Security Officer decides to initiate removal proceedings against the employee, the USGS Security Officer may do so, as the suspension requirements of the U.S.C. are considered to have been met by the reassignment or detail. However, whether the employee is suspended without pay, or reassigned or detailed temporarily to a Non-Sensitive position, the USGS Security Officer must comply with the procedures in this subchapter before terminating the employee.

(b) An employee will be given within 30 days after suspension without pay, reassignment or detail to a Non-Sensitive position or position with sensitive duties withheld, and before removal under the U.S.C. and Executive Order:

(i) A written Statement of Reasons (SOR) for the decision, which will be stated as specifically as security considerations will permit, and if applicable, a USGS Privacy Act Notice for Security Interviews, Figure 4-1. The USGS Security Management Office will prepare a summary from the investigative file to be included in the SOR, but will not include information that: (1) is classified (i.e., Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential), even if the subject has a security clearance; (2) would reveal the identity of a source granted confidentiality; (3) is protected sensitive medical information as denoted in 5 CFR 297.205; or (4) is otherwise exempt from release by the Privacy Act. If the individual requests a copy of the investigative report, the employee must contact the Freedom of Information Act Officer/Privacy Act Officer of the agency that conducted and/or created the original investigative report. The address will be provided by the USGS Security Management Office. The USGS Security Management Office cannot provide a copy of the investigative report to the individual. The individual should be advised that he/she may obtain legal counsel or other assistance at his/her own expense.

(ii) An opportunity shall be provided to the individual to respond to the SOR, and to request a review of the determination. The written response must be submitted within 45 days from the date the person received and signed for the SOR. (Upon request by the person and approval of the USGS Security Management Office, if warranted, up to an additional 30 days may be granted.) If the individual does not respond to the SOR, the person shall be notified that a timely response was not received, and their eligibility for access to classified information or performance of sensitive duties is hereby denied/revoked as indicated in 4.2.C.(2)(b)(iv) and (v) below.

(iii) A review of the documentation provided by the person, if applicable, before a final bureau determination.

(iv) A Letter of Decision will be provided to the individual that shall include:

If the decision is unfavorable, the individual shall be informed as to the rights to appeal that decision to the Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB). The PSAB is a high- level panel, appointed by the Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget, which shall be comprised of at least three members, two of whom shall be selected from outside the security field. The identity of the members of the PSAB shall not be revealed.

(v) If the individual chooses not to appeal to the PSAB, the determination made by the USGS Security Officer shall be the final decision and is not subject to further appeal.

(c) Upon completion of the due process procedure, the Security Management Office will sign the OPM Certification of Investigation Notice for filing on the permanent side of the OPF. Also, the Security Management Office will sign the OPM OFI-79A, Report of Agency Adjudicative Action on OPM Personnel Investigations, and return the form to OPM.


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U.S. Department of the Interior
, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/handbook/hb/440-7-h/440-7-h-ch4.html
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Content Information Contact: kkevans@usgs.gov
Last modification: 11-Jan-2013@10:51 (kk)
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