A Federal Register announcement this week paves the way for the consolidation of the forms used to establish trustworthiness of federal employees in positions of trust or requiring access to classified information. The Personnel Vetting Questionnaire (PVQ) would consolidate the SF-85, SF-85P, and SF-86. The form will be administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the common form will allow individual agencies to use the form based on the risk and sensitivity of the position.
The form will consolidate the information currently collected in the three different forms through the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) eQIP, and soon to be eApp, system of record.
The form incorporates goals of the Biden Administration for a more inclusive and DEIA-friendly federal application process, eliminating gender requirements (and hair color requirements, which this pink-haired writer acknowledges), and making sections involving family members more gender neutral and inclusive.
Rather than three disparate forms, the PVQ is one form consisting of four parts. The parts flex based on the suitability requirements and needs of the agency submitting the application. The form streamlines and standardizes the questions ask for suitability and security clearance determinations, both eliminating and adding questions on a risk-based approach.
Questions the form no longer includes:
- Selective Service
The need for selective service information is eliminated because that information can already be gathered by other means. That’s one key aspect of the form – not asking applicants to provide responses the government can already discover on its own. The other area eliminated is gender – due to inclusivity, and also the reality that self identified sex is not necessarily the best tool for identity verification and validity. OPM ultimately decided gender lacked the investigative utility to make it a requirement.
“Given the variables in data fields used by various records providers and the possibility that an individual’s self-identified sex may differ than what was previously provided (such as at the time of a past arrest), the effectiveness of using an individual’s self-identified sex as a tool for identity verification/validation has decreased,” the federal register noted.
Questions the Form Enhances:
How much of the current SF-86 includes truly valuable information in making a security clearance determination is up for discussion – but one area that consistently indicates an individuals’ overall reliability and trustworthiness is their past track record of handling protected information. The PVQ adds questions about whether or not an individual has violated rules around the safeguarding of information. Previous OPM forms have not asked specific questions about handling protected information – topics that frequently come up in the course of a security clearance polygraph examination.
Questions the form tweaks:
Changing social norms around marijuana use have made the drug questions murky. When it comes to past drug use, the government has signaled it’s willing to adjust standards when it comes to marijuana or THC use – but that flexibility is very specific to MJ. The updated PVQ provides more clarification around prior marijuana use vs. other drugs – with the goal of increasing and improving the applicant pool for those who may have fairly recently used marijuana, particularly in states where it was legal.
What’s included in the PVQ
Part A contains:
- General Information
- U.S. Passport Information
- U.S. Citizenship Information
- Additional Citizenships
- Employment Activities
- Other Federal Employment
- U.S. Military and U.S. Uniform Service
- People Who Know You Well
- Police Record
- Drug Activity
- Marijuana and Cannabis-Derivative Use
- U.S. Personnel Vetting Investigations, Security Clearances, and Federal Debarments
- Federal Debt
- Information Technology Systems
- Handling Protected Information
Part B Contains
- Continuation Questions for Sections 4,5, 6, 7, and 11
- Use of Alcohol and Rehabilitative Actions
- Relationship Status
- Foreign Travel
- Financial Record
Part C Contains
- Continuation Questions for Section 9
- Foreign Contacts
- Foreign Financial Interest and Foreign Benefits
- Foreign Business Affairs and Foreign Government Activities
- Psychological and Emotional Health
- Criminal Convictions Resulting in Sentences Over One Year
Part D Contains
- Psychological and Emotional Health
Agencies have until January 23 to submit responses to the PVQ.