Federal credentialing shifts to accommodate telework, distancing

PIV cards

Federal employees and contractors are routinely fingerprinted as part of the onboarding process, but with many facilities temporarily shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies are being advised to take measured risks when hiring.

Mike Rigas, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, told agency heads in a March 25 memo that agencies that can't obtain fingerprints for a needed hire must follow other established guidelines for onboarding and obtain fingerprints later. Agency heads can make such determinations for individual hires, for types of positions or for the entire agency, Rigas said.

While alternative methods can give new federal employees and contractors access, many agencies won't be able to generate PIV cards for employees to plug in to card readers to access networks remotely. Rigas echoed previous guidance calling for agencies to think about alternative secure tokens and two-factor access methods. "Remote inspection," including by video conference, will be considered an interim substitute for the required face-to-face meetings involved in issuance of credentials.

A footnote in the memo stated that "agencies are encouraged to make risk-based decisions as appropriate to meet mission needs" to execute on a new operational footing designed to promote telework, collaboration and service delivery while minimizing face-to-face contact with colleagues and the general public.

The memo also stated that the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, which manages background investigations as a service for many agencies including for sensitive posts, will defer fingerprint submission until collection is possible. It's not clear from the OPM guidance whether security classification determinations will be made absent a background check that includes matching candidate fingerprints against those in law enforcement databases. DCSA will communicate technical guidance directly with customer agencies.

The interim measures have the approval of OPM's partner agencies in the credentialing space, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, and are good until superseded by new orders.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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