Costs of Federal Personnel Security Investigations Could and Should Be Cut

FPCD-79-79: Published: Aug 31, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 1, 1979.

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A personnel security investigation is an inquiry into the activities of an individual to make sure he/she is reliable, trustworthy, loyal, and of good character. Authorities use the information to determine a person's suitability, security eligibility, and loyalty. There are two basic types of investigations: one called full field, which is extensive; and one called national agency check and inquiry, which is less so. Each includes a check of Federal agency arrest and investigative records. The extent of the investigation is determined by the sensitivity of the job. Of the $72 million spent on about 1.3 million investigations in fiscal year 1978, $62 million was for full-field investigations. Costs vary widely and cannot be compared, because there is no uniform method to develop the costs of investigations.

There has been little progress toward consolidation since previous recommendations that selected civilian personnel investigations be consolidated. Some Federal agencies prefer to make their own personnel security investigations of Federal and contractor employees and military personnel because of the belief that they cost less, take less time, and are more thorough than investigations made by the Office of Personnel Management, which has the primary responsibility. There is no way to measure how much could be saved by consolidating personnel security investigations, because agencies do not have comparable cost data. Savings from transferring investigative activities to a single agency would be limited to potential benefits, such as eliminating duplicate or unnecessry overhead and stabilizing workload. Opportunities to consolidate personnel investigations also may be limited by many laws and Executive Orders. Some agencies are improving the timeliness and efficiency of their personnel security investigations by reducing their extent, determining more carefully those positions requiring full-field type, and using investigators more effectively.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: In order to provide more timely, more useful, and less costly personnel investigations, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should work with other agencies to: develop definitive standards for reporting costs and determining the scope of investigations; reach agreements to use these standards; share resources when appropriate; and encourage the use of improvements made by other agencies. The Office of Personnel Management should use the reported costs and other operational data to determine the most effective program, including assessing the potential savings that could result from consolidation. The Office of Personnel Management should also improve its own program with respect to controls over written inquiries and developing adequate classification criteria.

    Agency Affected:


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