OPM Fields Public Comments on SF-86

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If you've ever had to obtain or renew a security clearance, you know that filling out Standard Form (SF) 86 is one of the most tedious steps in the process. Some have said that SF-86 is out of date, out of touch, and is not an effective method of catching potential dissidents. Secrecy News reports that on March 12th the Office of Personnel Management invited the public to comment on proposed changes to the form, and while that sounds like a step toward effective reform of the security clearance process, some have argued otherwise.

The proposed changes to SF-86 seem to reflect the most common criticisms and complaints about it. The changes included recognizing civil unions as a legal form of marriage and clarifying that applicants must report drug use that is illegal under federal law even if it is legal under state law. Some have commented that these changes don't actually solve the major problems with the clearance process or even handle any real issue.

Comments from the public will be accepted until May 13, 2013, so if you want to have a say on the revisions to SF-86, now's the time to jump in. You can submit written comments and send them to Federal Investigative Services, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E. Street NW., Washington, DC 20415, Attention: Donna McLeod. You can also email comments to FISFormsComments@opm.gov.

Before you send in your comments, please review the proposed revisions below. For a PDF of the current SF-86 check here, and for an electronic version of the full OPM release courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists, check here.

"The section, ''Instructions for Completing This Form (Paper Form Only),'' will be amended to delete the instruction ''If additional space is required for an explanation or to list your residences, employment/self-employment, or education, you should use a continuation sheet, SF 86A.'' The SF 86A is no longer useful as SF 86 requests are conducted entirely through e-QIP. The instructions in Section 11, ''Where You Have Lived,'' will provide clarifying instruction to not list a spouse, cohabitant, or relative as the verifier for periods of residence. The instructions in Section 12, ''Where You Went to School,'' will include the Department of Education Web site http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/search.aspx) to assist respondents in obtaining their school address(es). The instructions in Section 20b, ''Foreign Government Contacts,'' regarding contact with a foreign government, will be amended so that the respondent need report neither contact related to official U.S. Government travel (including official contact as a U.S. military service member on a U.S. Government military duty assignment) nor contact related to routine visa applications and border crossings on a U.S. passport. Section 20c, ''Foreign Travel,'' will be amended to clarify that travel solely for U.S. Government business is travel on official Government orders. Section 23, ''Illegal Use of Drugs and Drug Activity,'' will include instruction to clarify that drug use or activity illegal under Federal laws must be reported, even if that use or activity is legal under state or local law(s). OPM intends to amend the ''Authorization for Release of Information'' to clarify that information obtained from ''other sources of information'' includes publicly available electronic information.   

OPM proposes the following change to more accurately collect information regarding legally recognized relationships. Section 17, ''Marital Status,'' will be renamed ''Marital/Relationship Status.'' Where the form requires collection of information regarding civil marriages and divorces, the same collection of information will be required of legally recognized civil unions and legally recognized domestic partnerships, and dissolutions of these. Since information regarding legally recognized civil unions and domestic partnerships will be captured in the ''Marital/Relationship Status'' section, the definition of cohabitant will be amended to exclude legally recognized civil unions and legally recognized domestic partnerships. Changes will be made to the branching questions in Section 20a, ''Foreign Activities,'' to collect details regarding prior ownership of foreign real estate that has since been sold. This change will correct a deficit in the branching questions that do not currently account for this scenario.

OPM is proposing to make changes to Question 21, ''Psychological and Emotional Health,'' in connection with a comprehensive review being conducted by the Director of National Intelligence, in his role as Security Executive Agent, with the Department of Defense, OPM, and other Federal agencies, for the purpose of clarifying support for mental health treatment and encouraging pro-active management of mental health conditions to support wellness and recovery.”

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