The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) is a basic background investigation primarily for federal employees who will not have access to classified information. This investigation is appropriate for positions designated as public trust positions that require responsible and trustworthy employees, but with no national security impact. An SF-85 is completed for the NACI.

In 2015, the government began implementing revised National Investigative Standards with a system consisting of five tiers. The Trusted Workforce 2.0 effort is resuming the three tiered background investigations process.

The NACI includes FBI and government database checks and inquiries to past employers, schools, and local law enforcement. The checks are consistent with what would be appropriate for an employment verification. DoD NACIs also include a credit check, but a credit check hasn’t always historically been included in the NACI.

When a security clearance adjudicator makes a clearance determination, the decision is based on the whole person concept as related to 13 adjudication criteria. These criteria are designed to help assess whether or not a person has demonstrated trustworthiness to protect classified information. Trustworthiness depends on a person’s allegiance to the United States, character and trustworthiness. For example, what a person spends money on, timeliness of payments, and financial stewardship are identified in credit reports. The credit check goes a long way in addressing all three issues.  Therefore, the NACI is not thorough enough to make a security clearance determination when credit isn’t a part of the process.

Examples of Roles Requiring NACI Clearance

An example of a federal position that requires a NACI is for those performing information technology roles. These professionals are privy to sensitive but unclassified government and contractor information that reside on computer systems and networks. This information includes, technical data, personal records, contract data, programmatic details and etc. Because of the sensitivity, a NACI is required, but not a full background investigation or access to classified information. A NACI is also required for positions which require HSPD-12 or PIV card access.

The NACI is good for 5 years and the elements include a completed National Agency Check where federal agencies databases are queried and a law enforcement check. Written correspondence is required to verify education, employment and character references.


This article was updated with new information in July 2021.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @