For Administrators - Onboarding New Staff

Position Designation Tool

Please note: Position Designation Tool (PDT) is not to be confused with 'Emergency Tier Designation' (ETD) at NIH. Please see our PDT vs. ETD page for more information on ETD.

What is the 'Position Designation Tool' (PDT)?

Each position in the Federal service must be evaluated for a position sensitivity designation commensurate with the responsibilities and assignments of the position as they relate to public trust and national security. An individual's background investigation requirement is determined by these duties and responsibilities and the associated degree of potential damage to the efficiency or integrity of the service (this establishes the risk) or adverse effect on the national security (this establishes the sensitivity) from the misconduct of an incumbent of a position.

In order to ensure a systematic, dependable, and uniform way of designating federal government positions, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in conjunction with Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) and the National Background Investigation Service (NBIS) provide the Position Designation Tool (PDT). The PDT is the required method to determine the correct background investigation for a position in the Federal Government. The PDT provides the ability to identify any national security or public trust responsibilities associated with the position. The link to access the PDT is  


Who is Responsible for Completing the PDT?

Individuals at NIH who are responsible for designating/classifying positions or who understand the most about the position are responsible for completing the PDT. The PDT must not be submitted by the individual occupying the position. The PDT should be completed by a Federal employee as it is an inherently government function per the OMB circular A-76 and the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act per DCSA.​ The position designator completing the PDT must include their full name and title on the form and must fill out all fields correctly.

Position designators must carefully evaluate the Position Description (or equivalent) and any other position information to:
  • Assess the nature of the position as it relates to the potential material adverse impact to the national security or public trust
  • Determine the proper designation and required level of investigation 
  • For contractor positions, assess the duties the position will be performing for the Federal Government and not for the contractor employer.

'Position Designators' at NIH may include:

  • NIH Office of Human Resources Personnel (for Federal Staff)
  • Contract Officers Representatives, Project Officers, Supervisors, Program Staff or Administrative Officers (for non-Federal Staff)

PDT Training

DCSA Position Designation Tool Training is highly recommended. Please visit DCSA's Investigative Systems Training page to view a list of available dates for this training. To see a quick tutorial on the PDT, please visit: Here are a few other resources: 

Need further help with the PDT?

  • If you have questions on how to properly designate a position, or would like assistance designating a position, please contact DCSA Suitability Adjudications at (724) 794-5612, extension 7400 or email: Note: DPSAC does not offer assistance completing the PDT.
  • For generic questions on the PDT, please read the four step process on completing the PDT here and review the instructions we provided. If you still have questions, contact the ORS Division of Personnel Security & Access Control at 301-402-9755 or

Regulatory Guidance

Proper position designation is the foundation of an effective and consistent suitability and personnel security program. Agencies are required to demonstrate adherence to the standards for proper designation of positions (per parts 1400 and 731 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations). Failure to comply may result in unfavorable audit findings under title 5 USC § 1104(b)(2) and 5 CFR 5.2, or withdrawal of delegated authority under 5 CFR 731.103(f).

Understanding the PDT's Underlying Logic - The PDT System Guide

Developing a familiarity and understanding of the underlying logic for the Position Designation tool, Position Designation System (PDS), is essential. The success and consistency of the PDT are connected to the user's understanding of the various possible selections related to the national security and public trust requirements within the Position Designation System. Use the PDS glossary here to understand the necessary context and definitions used in the PDT in order to choose the correct levels.