Over the last few months, NASCOE has received a substantial amount of feedback in reference to the length of time it takes new hire background checks to be completed by USDA. Many office managers are concerned that new hire temps will not receive their background check before their “Not to Exceed” comes and goes.
The backlog of background checks stems from two sources: Re-assignment of background check duties to the newly created Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center and FSA’s hiring of more permanent and temporary employees.
Once a background check is initiated by a state office, the check is routed to the FPAC Business Center Homeland Security Division (HSD). After cases are submitted to HSD, they are monitored by way of a new process which was implemented in October of this year. This process involves tracking the new employee through the entire background check process. The desired outcome is increased visibility of the background check by stakeholders as it travels through the process between FSA and the Business Center.
Both FSA and the FPAC Business Center are optimistic about the new tracking process. Tracking of the background checks allows FSA state offices and Washington DC staff to see:
- When the background check request was submitted
- When the prospective employee receives their email security survey (e-QIP Survey)
- When the e-QIP survey is received back at HSD
- When the Security Initial Determination (SID) is made.
By now state offices should be familiar with this new tracking process. It is likely that your state office Administrative Division is keeping a running record of when checks are submitted to the HSD and they are following up if there are apparent delays. State offices can tell if cases are moving forward, or if they are stalled. When following up, state offices can contact the FSA national office and alert them to a delayed background check. Follow-up is usually initiated if county offices and state offices don’t have results within three weeks.
If the background check is delayed, the county office may follow up to see where the process is stalled. County offices should:
- Contact your state offices through normal channels and inquire about the status of the background check
- Contact NASCOE by way of your state association if no response is received of the state office and NASCOE can follow-up
As of today, timeframes are improving since implementation of the system in early October. It is expected that timeframes will improve even more in the next few months. State offices and WDC staff are actively looking for delayed background checks and following up with HSD. The personnel at HSD have been responsive to concerns as they are brought to their attention. In cases where county offices have concerns, they can prompt their state office for additional information or reach out to NASCOE for additional assistance. As we move forward, NASCOE intends to continue to monitor the progress of the project and ensure that it moves in a positive direction. The ultimate goal is to continue reducing timeframes for background checks to be completed.