Expanding Federal Polygraph Programs
The Personnel Security Managers’ Research Program  June 2001
Overview
Several organizations have announced their intentions to increase the number of screening polygraphs in their personnel security programs. While each is developing its plans from its own perspective, any increase beyond a few hundred exams per year has implications for the system as a whole, because all organizations must draw their additional examiners from the same pool of qualified applicants and of annuitants willing to return to work. Training is also an issue: new examiners must be trained by the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI), and DoDPI has staffing and facilities constraints that determine the maximum number of students it can handle per year. This study lays out the systemwide implications of individual agency plans to increase the number of polygraph examinations. It makes four assumptions:
Table 1 (see Appendix A) provides basic data about US Government polygraph programs. This includes personnel security screening and criminal specific examinations. Table 2 provides the system requirements for increasing the number of examinations from this year’s base level of about 56,000 to 60,500 in increments of 250. Separate columns indicate the change in the number of examiners and quality control examiners as well as training requirements needed to achieve various increases in polygraph examinations.
The figures used in Tables 1 and 2 and other parts of this study reflect polygraph programs across the US Government. Actual conditions in an individual agency may differ significantly. Adjusting the Excel formulae in Table 3 to reflect an agency’s actual figures will yield an equivalent of Table 2 for that agency.
Short Term Factors Affecting Increases in Examinations
Currently, DoDPI has the capacity to train 108 examiners per year in three classes of 36 students each. On average, during the last five years, 75 slots have been required to cover annual examiner attrition. This leaves 33 slots each year for adding new examiners to the system. At this rate, 11 additional examiners can be added three times per year.
This rate of increase reflects all types of polygraph examinations, criminal as well as personnel screening. Personnel screening exams are conducted at a more rapid rate, generally two per day. At that rate, if all 11 new examiners were assigned to personnel screening programs, the maximum rate of increase in the number of exams would be about 1,320. The actual rate would be lower, reflecting the time examiners are off line for annual leave, sick leave and other reasons.
DoDPI conducts three classes per year. Each class lasts 13 weeks. In theory, the minimum time required to train an examiner is thus 13 weeks. As a practical matter, however, most new examiners are assigned from other duties in their agencies. Those new examiners must be identified, shifted from their current assignment, and then they must wait for a slot in one of the three training classes. The actual time between determination of the need for a new examiner to completion of training ranges from about six to nine months.
Given the lead times required for identifying and training new examiners combined with the need to train 75 per year to keep up with attrition, the best increase in capacity the system is likely to achieve from new examiners is about 363 polygraphs in the first year. In subsequent years, the increase in the number of examinations by new examiners should be about 2,200. As noted above, the actual rate of increase depends on the portion of new examiners assigned to screening programs as well as other administrative factors.
Training capacity could be increased by augmenting DoDPI’s staff with qualified current examiners. Approximately 100 of them meet the degree requirements for teaching at DoDPI; how many of those are competent instructors is unknown. However, if that were done, during the first year, availability of examiners to conduct polygraph examinations would decline by a ratio of 1 examiner for every 6 additional trainees. Annuitants could be used as trainers, but that draws from the pool of potential line examiners. Training capacity could be increased by using line examiners, on a parttime basis, as trainers. NSA and DoDPI used this method during a recent training program.
Agencies that rotate their examiners to other positions after two or three years could reduce their attrition rates by increasing tour lengths. Some agencies have already taken measures, such as monetary and professional incentives, to encourage examiners to remain longer on line. Lengthened service would increase current system capacity both by retaining examiners and by freeing up some of the training slots now used to replace examiners who have rotated to other jobs. Lengthened service would also increase the proportion of experienced examiners on the line.
The most direct ways to increase system capacity are to:
While both of these methods of increasing system capacity may work in the short term, neither is likely to be sustainable over time for all agencies. For example, the first agencies drawing from the pool of annuitants may meet their needs, succeeding agencies may not.
Quality Implications
New examiners brought on line to increase system capacity will have some qualitative impact on polygraph programs. Currently, each year, about 10,000 polygraph examinations are conducted by examiners who with one year’s experience. If the maximum number of new examiners were brought on line, that figure would increase by about forty percent.
An increase in the number of examiners in the system would also require an increase in quality control examiners. Generally, those examiners would be drawn from the ranks of experienced examiners and would marginally reduce the number of experienced examiners on the line.
Facilities and Equipment
Increases in the number of polygraph examinations would require more space and equipment to support the program. Each additional examiner requires two spaces—one room to conduct examinations and another space to serve as an office. Each additional quality control examiner requires a space with appropriate monitoring equipment. In the short term, examiners can make do with temporary facilities, but over time, larger programs mean more space. Every additional 1,000 polygraph examinations will require about 8 additional examination rooms plus eight spaces for examiners’ desks.
More examiners also require more polygraph equipment as well as computers and other support equipment. At a minimum, 1,000 additional polygraphs will require additional instruments for 8 examiners plus appropriate equipment for the additional quality control examiner plus some spare equipment to accommodate equipment failure or repair.
Appendix A: Tables
Table 1: U.S. Government Polygraph Data Averages per Year
Counterintelligence Screening Polygraphs  39,663 
Law Enforcement Access Screening  8,077 
Specific Issue Examinations  8,295 
Total Examinations  56,035 
Managers and Quality control Examiners  87 
Line Examiners  422 
Total Examiners  509 
Average Exams per Examiner  133 
Ratio of Quality Control to Line Examiner  1 to 5 
Average Years of Experience of Managers/Quality Control Examiners  14 
Average Years of Experience of Line Examiners  8 
Table 2: System Requirements for Increasing
Polygraph Examinations
Exams 
Cumulative Increase in Exams  Examiners  Cumulative Increase in Examiners  Cumulative Increase in Examiners and QCs  Training Requirement  Avg. Exams per Examiner  QCs  Examiners and QCs 
56000 
0 
422 
0 
0 
75 
133 
84 
506 
56250 
250 
423 
1 
0 
76 
133 
85 
508 
56500 
500 
425 
3 
0 
78 
133 
85 
510 
56750 
750 
427 
5 
6 
81 
133 
85 
512 
57000 
1000 
429 
7 
8 
83 
133 
86 
514 
57250 
1250 
430 
8 
10 
85 
133 
86 
517 
57500 
1500 
432 
10 
12 
87 
133 
86 
519 
57750 
1750 
434 
12 
15 
90 
133 
87 
521 
58000 
2000 
436 
14 
17 
92 
133 
87 
523 
58250 
2250 
438 
16 
19 
94 
133 
88 
526 
58500 
2500 
440 
18 
21 
96 
133 
88 
528 
58750 
2750 
442 
20 
24 
99 
133 
88 
530 
59000 
3000 
444 
22 
26 
101 
133 
89 
532 
59250 
3250 
445 
23 
28 
103 
133 
89 
535 
59500 
3500 
447 
25 
30 
102 
133 
89 
537 
59750 
3750 
449 
27 
33 
104 
133 
90 
539 
60000 
4000 
451 
29 
35 
106 
133 
90 
541 
60250 
4250 
453 
31 
37 
108 
133 
91 
544 
60500 
4500 
455 
33 
39 
114 
133 
91 
546 
Table 3: Formulae


Avg. Exams / Examiner 

56000  0  422  0  0  75  133  =SUM(C4/5)  =SUM(C4+H4) 
56250  =SUM(A5A4)  =SUM(A5/G5)  =SUM(C5C4)  0  =SUM(C5C4+75+(H5H4))  133  =SUM(C5/5)  =SUM(C5+H5) 
56500  =SUM(A6A4)  =SUM(A6/G6)  =SUM(C6C4)  0  =SUM(C6C4+75+(H6H4))  133  =SUM(C6/5)  =SUM(C6+H6) 
56750  =SUM(A7A4)  =SUM(A7/G7)  =SUM(C7C4)  =SUM(I7I4)  =SUM(C7C4+75+(H7H4))  133  =SUM(C7/5)  =SUM(C7+H7) 
57000  =SUM(A8A4)  =SUM(A8/G8)  =SUM(C8C4)  =SUM(I8I4)  =SUM(C8C4+75+(H8H4))  133  =SUM(C8/5)  =SUM(C8+H8) 
57250  =SUM(A9A4)  =SUM(A9/G9)  =SUM(C9C4)  =SUM(I9I4)  =SUM(C9C4+75+(H9H4))  133  =SUM(C9/5)  =SUM(C9+H9) 
57500  =SUM(A10A4)  =SUM(A10/G10)  =SUM(C10C4)  =SUM(I10I4)  =SUM(C10C4+75+(H10H4))  133  =SUM(C10/5)  =SUM(C10+H10) 
57750  =SUM(A11A4)  =SUM(A11/G11)  =SUM(C11C4)  =SUM(I11I4)  =SUM(C11C4+75+(H11H4))  133  =SUM(C11/5)  =SUM(C11+H11) 
58000  =SUM(A12A4)  =SUM(A12/G12)  =SUM(C12C4)  =SUM(I12I4)  =SUM(C12C4+75+(H12H4))  133  =SUM(C12/5)  =SUM(C12+H12) 
58250  =SUM(A13A4)  =SUM(A13/G13)  =SUM(C13C4)  =SUM(I13I4)  =SUM(C13C4+75+(H13H4))  133  =SUM(C13/5)  =SUM(C13+H13) 
58500  =SUM(A14A4)  =SUM(A14/G14)  =SUM(C14C4)  =SUM(I14I4)  =SUM(C14C4+75+(H14H4))  133  =SUM(C14/5)  =SUM(C14+H14) 
58750  =SUM(A15A4)  =SUM(A15/G15)  =SUM(C15C4)  =SUM(I15I4)  =SUM(C15C4+75+(H15H4))  133  =SUM(C15/5)  =SUM(C15+H15) 
59000  =SUM(A16A4)  =SUM(A16/G16)  =SUM(C16C4)  =SUM(I16I4)  =SUM(C16C4+75+(H16H4))  133  =SUM(C16/5)  =SUM(C16+H16) 
59250  =SUM(A17A4)  =SUM(A17/G17)  =SUM(C17C4)  =SUM(I17I4)  =SUM(C17C4+75+(H17H4))  133  =SUM(C17/5)  =SUM(C17+H17) 
59500  =SUM(A18A4)  =SUM(A18/G18)  =SUM(C18C4)  =SUM(I18I4)  =SUM(C18C4+75+(H18H4))  133  =SUM(C18/5)  =SUM(C18+H18) 
59750  =SUM(A19A4)  =SUM(A19/G19)  =SUM(C19C4)  =SUM(I19I4)  =SUM(C19C4+75+(H19H4))  133  =SUM(C19/5)  =SUM(C19+H19) 
60000  =SUM(A20A4)  =SUM(A20/G20)  =SUM(C20C4)  =SUM(I20I4)  =SUM(C20C4+75+(H20H4))  133  =SUM(C20/5)  =SUM(C20+H20) 
60250  =SUM(A21A4)  =SUM(A21/G21)  =SUM(C21C4)  =SUM(I21I4)  =SUM(C21C4+75+(H21H4))  133  =SUM(C21/5)  =SUM(C21+H21) 
60500  =SUM(A22A4)  =SUM(A22/G22)  =SUM(C22C4)  =SUM(I22I4)  =SUM(C22C4+75+(H22H4))  133  =SUM(C22/5)  =SUM(C22+H22) 