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Survey Program FAQs

The following are the more commonly asked questions regarding the survey program. If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact us at or by phone at (703) 604-6058
Survey Oversight
Why is approval needed to conduct surveys?
OPNAV Instruction 5300.8C mandates the review and approval of ALL Navy surveys.  Approval is needed for several reasons, among which are the need to ensure that surveys do not interfere with operations, that a Sailor's time is spent on surveys that are beneficial to the Navy, that surveys do not duplicate previous efforts, and that surveys are technically and scientifically sound.

Are any Surveys exempt from requiring approval?
There are some situations in which a waiver for some parts of the survey approval process can be granted. However, coordination with the Survey Program Office is always required in order to ensure compliance with Human Research Protection Protocols, SECNAV, OPNAV instructions and to provide assistance with the development and execution of surveys. In all situations, participation needs to be voluntary and responses must remain confidential. A few common scenarios include the following:
  • Surveys within one command: A waiver for full survey approval is generally granted for surveys being conducted by one command and/or surveys limited to one command (e.g., the CO wants to conduct a survey among his/her staff about possible strategies). However, all survey questions still have to be reviewed for HRPP compliance so you should contact the Survey Program Office at or by phone at (703) 604-6058 to discuss and obtain a waiver before assuming that approval is granted.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys: On-site or other customer satisfaction surveys may be eligible for a waiver from Full Navy survey approval.  Contact us with a short description and we will decide if full approval is required.
  • Small/Short surveys: Yes, approval is required even if only a few people will participate. However, contact our office to see if your survey meets one of the exceptions for full survey approval (e.g., if the survey is restricted to a single command). You should submit a short description of your project (purpose, target population, number to be sampled, intended use of data) so that a determination can be made of whether this effort requires Navy-wide survey review and approval.
  • Course Evaluation Surveys: Training course evaluation surveys are generally exempt as long as the survey deals with the course content or course presentation. Course impact evaluations may also be exempt. Contact the Navy Survey Program Manager/Deputy with specifics for review of the questions and a final determination.
Does the instruction apply to all data collection methods, or just surveys?
The instruction applies to all data collection methods, to include surveys, interviews, and focus groups, as well as technologies used to collect data (e.g., cell phones, tablets, computer-based). These are all activities that, while necessary, require time from Sailors to complete and therefore approval from the Survey Program Office. 
What is an SCN number?
SCN stands for Survey Control Number, a replacement for the Report Control Symbol (RCS) that indicates that you have Navy approval and license to administer the survey. The SCN number needs to be included in the Privacy Act statement of all versions of the survey along with the expiration date.  
Why do you need to do a technical review of my survey?
We evaluate the scientific and technical soundness of surveys. The technical review is a required part of the survey review and approval process, which ensures that sailor time is not spent answering questions which may not be scientifically or technically sound.

Do I need approval from a Protection of Human Subjects board or an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?
Some Navy-wide surveys may also require Protection of Human Subjects review in addition to Navy survey approval according to SECNAVINST 3900.39E (Human Research Protection Program). Submit your application and we will determine if IRB review is warranted.

May I administer a survey to Navy personnel for my thesis/dissertation?
Such requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A primary criterion is the relevance of the survey to a Navy-related issue or problem. It is important to have a Flag level Navy sponsor for any thesis/dissertation involving Navy personnel. Please contact or call (703) 604-6058 to discuss further.

If the Navy Survey Program Manager determines that our survey does not need approval, are there still standards that have to be met?
Yes - If demographic information is being collected (e.g., name, paygrade, gender, race), then a Privacy Act statement is required and data handling & storage guidelines must be followed. If individuals are identified or the project is part of a research effort, then review by an Institutional Review Board may also be required. If the survey will be administered through the web, additional web policies apply.  These standards will be covered by the Navy Survey Program Manager when notifying you that approval is not needed. In all cases, participation in Navy surveys must be voluntary and the individual responses kept confidential.  In virtually all cases, the results of Navy surveys should be aggregated and NOT reported in groups of less than 10.
Application Process
Whom should I contact to begin the application process?
The survey approval process begins with the completion of this form. If you have questions, you may contact the the Navy Survey Program at or by phone at (703) 604-6058. 
What documentation do I need for survey approval?
For a full survey approval you’ll need to submit the following documents. All templates and samples can be found on the Templates and tools page. 
  • Survey Request Letter/Action Memo – This is usually a brief description of the project describing the methodology and purpose of the survey plan provided to the flag officer as part of the formal routing process
  • CAPE Document – this is an electronic cost estimate that indicates the total number of man-hours spent on the survey in design, development, administration and analysis.
  • Report Analysis Data (5214): This form estimates the cost for respondents to answer the survey and includes Afloat vs Shore delineation as well as frequency.
  • IRB Approval – Documentation from a Navy IRB or a civilian/educational institution with a Federal Wide Assurance indicating that the survey has been approved for Human Subjects Research.  
  • Flag Endorsement Letter: Letter should be signed by a Flag officer or SES. This letter should include the purpose and cost associated with the data collection effort.   If Flag/SES endorsement is not possible, please contact the Survey Program Manager for alternatives. Final Survey Instrument – this should include all questions to be asked to participants. 
  • Final Survey Draft: Survey packet should include the final draft of the data collection instrument that will be used.
How long does it take to obtain Final approval once the application materials are submitted?
Surveys that are Navy specific can be approved by the Navy Survey Office within a week or less. Surveys that require coordination from other services or the Office of Management and Budget may take several months.  

Are there additional reviews that I need to obtain?
In addition to Navy survey approval, you may need to obtain Protection of Human Subjects Approval as discussed above.  An Institutional Review Board (which is tasked to protect the rights of human subjects) will review your survey and data collection plan to determine if approval is granted or if changes in data collection methods need to be made. However, additional time may be required if the survey/materials need to be reviewed by or if the survey is an N1 survey (which may need to be reviewed by CNP and could take an additional month). Also, in January 2010, the Chief of Naval Personnel required that all surveys being sponsored or conducted within N1 receive additional approval from N1B. Contact the Navy Survey Program Manager for how this part of the approval process works. For surveys outside of N1, the additional requirement is to have your PAO and JAG review the survey and indicate that the survey is not objectionable from their perspective.  This can be done in an email that is sent to the Navy Survey Program Manager and the Deputy Navy Survey Program Manager.
Survey Development/Execution
Whom am I allowed to survey?
Current regulations allow active duty members, reservists (both SELRES and members of the IRR), and Navy civilian employees to be surveyed. Civilian surveys may also require permission from relevant unions. Also, retirees, spouses, and family members may be surveyed if the survey pertains to Navy/military issues but may require additional OMB approval (this can take 3-6 months). Please contact the Navy Survey Program Office to determine if your survey requires additional review. Under current regulations, government contractors who do not fall into one of these  categories may not be surveyed unless additional approval is obtained through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and through their contracting organization. 
Surveys that will go beyond Navy require additional approvals. Surveys that involve personnel from the Marine Corps alone need permission from the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer.  Contact the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer at 703-784-9370.  Surveys that involve personnel from both the Navy and the Marine Corps need approval from both the Navy Survey Program Manager and the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer. 
If you intend to survey members of other services in addition to Navy and/or Marine Corps (Army, Air Force, Coast Guard), Department of Defense survey review and approval is required. You should contact Head, Personnel Surveys and Program Evaluation Division, Office of People Analytics, at 571-372-0987.
Can I use commercially available tools to conduct surveys?
Before use of any commercially available survey tool, you should check to make sure that it meets all relevant DoD and Navy Information Assurance and IT security requirements (e.g., FedRAMP). Since the data will be stored on commercial servers there is increased risk of harm or embarrassment if the data are somehow compromised. The Navy Survey Program Office can help guide you to identify tools that meet your data collection needs and applicable IT requirements.
Do you have a pool of items that have been used in the past that we can use?
We have electronic copies of recent Navy and DoD personnel surveys that we would be happy to share. Please contact us with question topics of interest. 
Can I offer incentives for completing my survey?
Incentives are NOT allowed. They violate the "dual compensation" rule since approved Navy surveys are allowed to be completed during work hours. Also, since not everyone in a command is selected for a survey, it would be unfair to offer an incentive just to those who are selected. Contact the Navy Survey Program Office or your legal office for advice.
Is a password required on a web-enabled survey?
Navy regulations require that web surveys only be conducted on private sites, unless you obtain OMB approval. A way to accomplish this might be to put the survey on a site that requires the common access card (CAC) to access. Another option would be to use usernames/passwords. Passwords also prevent the same person from completing the survey multiple times and can be used to allow respondents to finish the survey in multiple sessions. The same passwords may be used for all participants while having unique usernames.
Can command or Department of Navy websites collect personal information such as name, address, and phone number as part of a survey?
If you are collecting information on a page or a site behind some kind of filtering (i.e., CAC), you may be able to collect this information. However, you will need to check with your Privacy Officer to determine if there are issues related to the Privacy Act or collection of PII.

Contact Us

Phone: (703) 604-6058

To request a survey, you may start by completing this form

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