Optional Form (OF)-306, the Declaration for Federal Employment, looks like an innocuous bureaucratic box-checking exercise to most federal civilian and contractor job applicants. For many it is. For some, it is the start of an avoidable nightmare.

Completion of Form OF-306 is a requirement government-wide for civil service, excepted service, and, at many agencies, contractor appointments. The blessedly brief (by government standards) two-page document asks some of the same questions as the SF-85P and SF-86 (soon-to-be merged into the new “PVQ”). However, the OF-306 is typically completed as part of the human resources pre-hiring process – well before the applicant is asked to complete more comprehensive background screening paperwork.

Comparing the OF-306 to the SF-86

Some applicants fail to realize the extent of the screening process they will soon face, or they fail to appreciate the fact that the OF-306 will be compared against the subsequent SF-85P / SF-86 / PVQ. This leads to cases of, shall we say, evolving or less-than-credible answers.

The most common landmines pertain to criminal history, prior job terminations, and delinquent federal debt like student loans. A “no” answer that should have been a “yes” or a “yes” answer with a clearly false explanation in the continuation space on page 2 of the form is a recipe for a rescinded job offer, denial of a security clearance, and even debarment from federal employment or contracting opportunities by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Indeed, federal agencies can refer cases of material, intentional false statements in the hiring process to OPM for debarment proceedings. The debarment adjudicators there are very thorough in rooting out falsification. That’s not a fun place to be when your entire relevant work history is in federal contracting or you need to attain just a few more years of FERS-creditable service for a civil service retirement.

Mitigating potential suitability concerns

On the other hand, applicants who truthfully answer the OF-306 have an opportunity to mitigate potential suitability concerns and should take full advantage of that. Where issues are present, providing the type of information identified as mitigating in 5 C.F.R. § 731.202 and/or the National Adjudicative Guidelines for Security Clearances, as applicable, can help the applicant get past the initial suitability screening review done for all federal employee and contractor applicants. This explanation need not be limited to the continuation space on page 2 of the form, but it should be carefully considered, well-written, and ideally vetted by experienced legal counsel if it is to have the desired impact.

Ultimately, there is no guarantee that even the best written explanation will prove sufficiently mitigating of potential concerns. However, a single rescinded job offer is far superior to debarment from all federal employment or contracting work for a period of years.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Although the information is believed to be accurate as of the publication date, no guarantee or warranty is offered or implied. Laws and government policies are subject to change, and the information provided herein may not provide a complete or current analysis of the topic or other pertinent considerations. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at https://berrylegal.com.