When American citizens choose to work for the federal government in positions that require access to classified information, they are required to undergo an intense government background check. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for conducting the majority of background checks for most federal agencies and their contractors. An executive order signed by President Eisenhower in 1953, gave OPM and other agencies the authority to regulate the security of federal personnel through the use of background investigations. Government background checks that aren’t performed by OPM are usually conducted by the Department of Defense or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The agency conducting the government background check has a first priority to make sure that the applicant is reliable, trustworthy and loyal to the United States. To what depth they investigate an applicant depends on the position that has been applied for. Positions that require the most access to classified information and that give an employee the opportunity to do the most individual harm, require a background check of the largest scope.
A government background check is regarded as the most thorough of background investigations, therefore, it is considered very intrusive by many people. The first step of a government background check requires an applicant to fill out a security questionnaire that has extremely personal questions on it. Additionally, applicants must be fingerprinted, so their prints can be entered into the computers of the FBI and confirm that they are not criminals.
Next, interviewers that work for whichever agency performing the government background check, find and locate people listed on the security questionnaire and others that may not be, so they may have an unbiased account of an applicant’s character. They will conduct interviews with an applicant’s friends, family, acquaintances, current employers, past employers and anyone they can find to give personal information to them about an applicant.
In addition, a credit report will be run to make sure there are no major credit problems with an applicant. Most government background checks take at least 30 days, and many of them 90 days or longer. The length of the investigation depends on the number of contacts an applicant has outside of the United States and the difficulty that an interviewer has contacting people on an applicant’s security questionnaire. After the pertinent information has been gathered about an applicant, adjudications officials at the agency requiring the investigation will evaluate the information communicate their recommendation to the appropriate personnel or security office.