A bi-weekly newsletter from the Division of Personnel Security and Access Control
Providing timely information to help keep NIH safe and secure
December 2, 2020 Issue of DPSAC News
 In this issue:
  • DPSAC Passes OPM Audit with Flying Colors ​
  • NIH 6th Virtual Town Hall: Recent Research Advances, NIH Return Efforts, Staying Safe, and a Song of Thanks
  • News Briefs:
  • Visitors with Credentialing Appointments at Bethesda NIH Campus to Present DPSAC Confirmation Email at Gateway Center or CVIF
  • Revised Visitor Access Procedures for NIH Facilities
  • NIH Clinical Center Continues to Offer Asymptomatic COVID-19 Testing for All Staff
  • FAQs: Completing the Position Designation Tool (PDT)
  • AOs Who Wish to Obtain Sponsor Authority

DPSAC Passes OPM Audit
with Flying Colors ​
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently completed a comprehensive audit of DPSAC operations to ensure compliance with federal guidance related to personnel security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). OPM initiated this review to determine if the NIH has effectively met the performance goals and measures governing the completion of background investigations and issuing PIV cards to NIH staff during the evaluation period of May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2020.

OPM’s last review was conducted in 2011. At the time, NIH only passed 33% of the criteria. This time, it met 80% of the criteria evaluated, measuring such metrics as the speed and accuracy of initiating and reviewing background investigation requests, and properly securing personnel files. For example, DPSAC was lauded for submitting complete and accurate investigation packages over 97% of the time! DPSAC was also praised for their issuance of PIV credentials. This finding has important implications. If NIH was found to be issuing badges improperly, it could have its badging authority revoked and would be forced to rely on the HHS Program Support Center (PSC) to process ID badge requests for NIH staff. ORS DPSAC estimates this would dramatically increase the wait time for ID badges from approximately 3 weeks to over 3 months, significantly delaying not only badge renewals for existing staff but also the hiring of new staff. 

The audit highlighted several areas where NIH was not only meeting, but exceeding relevant regulations and guidance, including but not limited to the following:
  • NIH properly pre-screens applicants
  • NIH refers cases to OPM where there is evidence of potential, material intentional falsification
  • NIH appropriately applies reciprocity
  • NIH initiates the fastest 90% of investigation requests with 14 days or less (8.5 days on average)
  • NIH ensures investigation requests are reviewed for accuracy and completeness prior to releasing it to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA)
  • NIH complies with HSPD-12 and does not issue a final Personal Identity Verification (PIV) credential before the required investigation is initiated
  • NIH adjudicates all closed investigations for suitability using Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, part 731 (5 CFR 731)
  • NIH requests background investigations on appointees or employees as required
  • NIH properly secures employee personnel security files
  • NIH staff who perform adjudicative work are properly trained in accordance with the National Training Standards (NTS)
  • NIH staff who perform adjudicative work maintain a favorable determination based on the results of the appropriate level of investigation
  • DPSAC manuals and policies are in compliance with all applicable executive orders and OPM requirements

The report also provided three recommendations to improve overall compliance with applicable performance standards:
  • NIH Human Resources:  Ensure all agency positions are re-designated in accordance with Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, part 1400 (5 CFR 1400)

  • ORS DPSAC: Ensure HSPD-12 credentialing determinations are reported into the Central Verification System (CVS), as required

  • ORS DPSAC: Ensure all suitability determinations are reported to OPM no later than 90 days after the receipt of the final report of investigation, as required

ORS DPSAC is appreciative of this thorough review and is proactively taking steps to implement the recommendations outlined in the report provided by OPM. These recommendations will help strengthen our overall program with no impact to our ability to service NIH staff.

ORS considers the results of this audit a success for NIH. It demonstrates NIH's commitment to meeting applicable federal regulations and protecting personal information in a customer friendly manner.
NIH 6th Virtual Town Hall: Recent Research Advances, NIH Return Efforts, Staying Safe and a Song of Thanks
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins hosted NIH’s 6th Virtual Town Hall on November 11, 2020 to bring the NIH community up to date on the NIH response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to thank the NIH community for ‘all you do in support of the NIH mission.’
Over 10,000 viewers tuned in to the live event that included discussions on the pandemic’s impact on NIH's return efforts, the status of NIH’s research efforts to develop vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests, pandemic fatigue, and how to stay safe during the holidays. Dr. Collins was joined by fellow presenters NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak and NIH Office of Human Resources Director Julie Berko.
Dr. Tabak provided an overview of the status of the pandemic and how NIH is considering this information in its return efforts. Julie Berko, Chief People Officer, expanded on Dr. Tabak’s remarks to provide results of the NIH Workforce Covid-19 impact survey aimed at helping NIH figure out how best to support the workforce in these unprecedented times.
Update on Research
Dr. Collins reported that on Monday, November 16, NIH and Moderna announced the interim analysis of the Phase 3 investigational COVID-19 vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, demonstrating an efficacy rate of 94.5%. Ninety of the cases of symptomatic illness occurred in the placebo group and just five occurred in the vaccinated group. Importantly, there were 11 cases of severe COVID-19 out of the total of 95, all of which occurred in the placebo group. As Dr. Collins pointed out, “these are incredible results – better than we almost dared to hope!” Then later in the week, Pfizer announced the results of 170 cases in their vaccine trial – 162 in the placebo arm, eight in the vaccine arm. Once again, 95% efficacy! Both Moderna and Pfizer are now preparing applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of their COVID-19 investigational vaccines. If all goes well, there is an excellent possibility that about 20 million high-risk individuals will receive immunizations before the end of 2020. 
On a related note, Moderna also announced data that show the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains stable at freezer temperatures [-20° C (4°F)] for up to six months, at refrigerator conditions for up to 30 days, and at room temperature for up to 12 hours. This is important because it makes the vaccine easier to distribute, particularly in rural areas that may not have the special freezers needed to keep the Pfizer vaccine stable.

On Friday, November 11, NIH announced the second round of awards for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations or RADx-UP program. The nearly $45 million in new grant awards expands the research network by adding 20 institutions and seven states and territories to increase COVID-19 testing and address testing hesitancy for populations disproportionately affected by the disease. These awards bring the total investment in the RADx-UP program to more than $283 million at 55 institutions across 33 states and territories and the Cherokee Nation.
Also, the NIH employee intranet site continues to provide updates on staff Covid-19 positive cases. Visitors to the site can view the regularly updated NIH COVID-19 Surveillance graphs.

Toward the end of the meeting Tabak and Berko took the opportunity to field several practical and relevant frequently asked questions that had been submitted in advance.
Dr. Collins ended the meeting with a song that he sang while accompanying himself on the guitar and dedicated to all NIH staff titled Thanksgiving Eve. “Every one of you makes an important contribution to ensuring that the life-saving work of the NIH can continue during this pandemic,” said Collins. “The entire NIH leadership is deeply grateful for your dedication and commitment” he concluded.

Anyone who missed the Town Hall can view it in its entirety by clicking on the link: 6th Virtual Town Hall.
News Briefs
Visitors Arriving at NIH Bethesda Campus for Credentialing Appointments Asked to Present DPSAC Confirmation Email at Gateway Center or CVIF

When an applicant schedules a credentialing appointment with DPSAC (e.g. Enrollment/Badge Issuance/ Prescreening/Certificate Renewals), s/he receives immediate confirmation of the appointment in the form of an email. Recently, DPSAC added verbiage to this email asking applicants to present a copy of the confirmation appointment email to security screeners upon arrival at the Gateway Center (or CVIF). This new requirement is intended to simplify and expedite the security screening process for these individuals and for the screeners on duty. Please click here to read the revised appointment confirmation email.

Applicants with questions about this process can call the DPSAC Case Review and Customer Service Branch Helpdesk at: 301-402-9755. 
Revised Visitor Access Procedures for NIH Facilities
The NIH recently modified its visitor procedures to increase safety and promote security awareness for the entire community. Visitors will be allowed to pass through the Gateway Visitor Center and Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility (CVIF) only if they can show they have a legitimate purpose or sanctioned business reason. 

Perimeter Security Access Changes: NIH security personnel now ask all daily visitors the reason for their visit, the location they intend to visit, and if applicable, who they are visiting. It is incumbent on the visitor and the NIH host to coordinate arrival times to ensure that when security calls the NIH host, s/he is available to confirm the visit. This change does not apply to individuals with an NIH-issued ID badge.

The security staff will still conduct their screening activities in the same professional and respectful manner to ensure our visitors have a positive first impression of the NIH. Patient and patient visitor procedures at the West Drive entrance (7 days a week, 6AM – 10PM) and CVIF (all other hours) will remain unchanged.

Additional details on the revised visitor procedures and building access can be found at: https://security.nih.gov/.

NIH Clinical Center Continues to Offer Asymptomatic COVID-19 Testing for All Staff
The NIH Clinical Center continues to offer asymptomatic testing to all staff for SARS-CoV-2. The program is voluntary but strongly encouraged for those working onsite. Staff must complete the safety video and guidance prior to coming on campus for asymptomatic testing.

Please review the asymptomatic testing information on the NIH Intranet and the Frequently Asked Questions page of the NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus intranet site before registering.
Q: My IC is bringing on a new Research Fellow. NED now requires the completed output from the Position Designation Tool (PDT). Should I just send the PDT link (https://pdt.nbis.mil/) to the new person and ask them to fill it out?

A: No! Individuals being brought on at NIH should not be asked to complete the PDT. The PDT should be completed by the AO, Human Resources, Supervisor, Project Officer, etc. -- i.e., whoever is in the best position to know the duties of the position, the potential damage that could be caused by the position, and the amount of supervision, should be completing the tool (or assisting with its completion).  

Avoiding Additional
Delays in Processing
New Hires

Processing times are often delayed due to reasons outside of DPSAC control, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Incomplete or not submitted OF-306
  • Candidate response time
  • Issues requiring clarification by the candidate
  • Untimely submission of initial e-QIP or corrected e-QIP

How the AO and HR communities can assist:
  • By ensuring all required documents have been uploaded into HR's 'Onboarding Manager' prior to establishing a NED account
  • By entering candidates as early as possible but no later than 8 weeks prior to their Entry on Duty (EOD) date
  • By working with DPSAC to ensure candidates respond in a timely manner to inquiries

ALT cards -- should be returned to the IC ALT card coordinatorNOT to DPSAC.
Administrative Officers (AOs) who wish to obtain sponsor authority must complete the sponsor training. To access the training module, click on: Sponsor.

Upon completion, the AO should sign and email a copy of the certificate found at the end of the training module to Alex Salah at: salaha@ors.od.nih.gov. Upon receipt of the certificate, Mr. Salah will authorize the AO as a Sponsor. 

Note: ONLY individuals with an Administrative Officer role in NED are eligible to be HHS ID Badge/PIV Card Sponsors. 
Are there topics you would like to read more about in future issues of DPSAC News?
Please send your suggestions to: Lanny.Newman@nih.gov. Your input is greatly appreciated.
A biweekly e-newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, Office of Research Services, Division of Personnel Security and Access Control (ORS/DPSAC) to keep its readers informed of personnel security and access control policies and practices designed to safeguard the NIH and its workforce. DPSAC is responsible for verifying personal identity, validating suitability, reviewing background checks, authorizing facility access and issuing ID badges for NIH personnel. 

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