Position Designation Tool

What is the 'Position Designation Tool'?

Please note, position designation is not to be confused with 'Emergency Tier designation' at NIH.

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 official mechanism used to determine the required 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 https://pdt.nbis.mil/.  


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).


Need help with PDT?

Understanding the PDT's Underlying Logic
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. The PDS is accessible by visiting: https://www.opm.gov/suitability/suitability-executive-agent/position-designation-tool/position-designation-system-with-glossary-2017.pdf

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. 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)
Four Step Process to Complete the PDT
Completing the PDT consists of a four-step process that guides the designator through an examination of the position's duties and responsibilities. The completion of the PDT process will result in a final designation for the position which, in turn, will determine the investigative requirement for the position:
1. Examine and select the National Security Requirements of the Position and determine the Potential Damage to the National Security
2. Examine and select the Public Trust Requirements of the Position (unrelated to National Security) and determine the potential impact on the efficiency or integrity of the service
3. Apply adjustments for program designation and level of supervision and choose adjustment value for the scope of program impact and level of related controls
4. Final Position Designation and Investigation Requirement. 

1. National Security Responsibilities

2. Public Trust Responsitilities

Please note: Child Care Requirements are not included in PDT. Administrative Officers (AOs) should continue to check the box 'Works with Children' for individuals who work with children at NIH.

Final Position Risk, Sensitivity and Corresponding Investigation Requirement

Once all selections are made, the PDT will calculate the Sensitivity and Risk Level of the position, and the corresponding Background Investigation requirement (Tier 1 -- Tier 5).

-- Sensitivity Level: Degree of potential material adverse effect on the national security

-- Risk Level: Degree of potential damage to the efficiency or integrity of the service from misconduct of an incumbent in a position 

Potential Damage.jpg

The chart below lists the available federal background investigative products regarding the risk and sensitivity designation of positions across the federal government. 

Position Sensitivity DesignationPosition Risk DesignationType of InvestigationForm Type
Special SensitiveHigh RiskTier5+SCISF 86
Critical SensitiveHigh RiskTier5SF 86
Non-Critical SensitiveHigh RiskTier5SF 86
Moderate RiskTier3SF 86
Non-Sensitive Public TrustHigh RiskTier4SF 85P
Moderate RiskTier2SF 85P
Non-SensitiveLow RiskTier1SF 85

Enter the PDT Tier Value into NED during Activate Register Step

A position designation will be required for new positions or for any changes to an individuals position. Administrative officers must ensure the calculated tier value derived from the PDT matches the final tier value calculated in NED during the NED registration process. If the tiers do not match, the position information must be reevaluated to ensure all pertinent position information is captured in both NED and the PDT.  Additionally, a copy of the completed PDT must be uploaded to NED.

Enter PDT Tier Value into NED during Activate Register 3-12-20.jpg

Please note:  It is illegal for sponsors to misrepresent an individual's Position Sensitivity Level or Background Investigation Requirement to circumvent the process in an attempt to avoid delays. Violators will have their sponsorship privileges revoked. 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).