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Security Clearance FAQs

Security Clearances for Individuals

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance is a status granted by agencies of the United States Government that determines a person’s ability to access and view documents of national security. A security clearance investigation is an inquiry into an individual’s loyalty, character, trustworthiness and reliability to ensure that they are eligible for access to national security information.

The investigation focuses on an individual’s character and conduct, emphasizing such factors as honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, financial responsibility, criminal activity, emotional stability, and other similar and pertinent areas. All investigations consist of checks of national records and credit checks; some investigations also include interviews with individuals who know the candidate for the security clearance as well as the candidate himself/herself.

Who decides whether a security clearance or access to a sensitive position is granted?

An adjudicator, who is employed or contracted by one of the Department of Defense (DoD) Central Adjudication Facilities (CAFs), reviews the results of a Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) and compares it to established qualifying criteria for granting access to classified information or for an appointment to a sensitive position or position of trust.

Who may have access to classified information?

Only those persons who have a bona fide need to know, and who possess a personnel security clearance at the same or higher level as the classified information to be disclosed. The clearance level and the classified information to be accessed are determined by the granting federal agency.

Can an individual who has been granted a security clearance be authorized access to any and all classified information?

No. The individual must have both the appropriate level of security clearance and a need to know the classified information.

Do contractors have the authority to grant, deny, or revoke personnel security clearances for their employees?

No. Federal Contractors can sponsor their employees for security clearances, but the final determination of whether or not a security clearance is actually granted rests with the Federal Government.

What work does each security clearance allow a person to do?

A security clearance allows a person filling a specific position to have access to classified national security information up to and including the level of security clearance that they hold, so long as the person has a need to know the information to perform his or her duties.

What is an interim security clearance?

An interim security clearance is one that is issued quickly to an individual for use at a specific job. Unlike regular security clearances, interim clearances expire immediately after the individuals leave the job that required the clearance. Interim security clearances are generally of a low level and can be given within 30 days of inquiry. An interim is issued once a review of the application is completed and the candidate is determined eligible.

An interim security clearance allows a person to have access to collateral classified information (at the level requested without a caveat) while his or her final clearance is being processed. Interim Secrets are issued automatically and can be denied. A denial, however, does not mean that a final will not be issued. It means there is something on the application which must be first reviewed and investigated fully. Interim Top Secret clearances must be requested by the government customer contractor. An Interim Top Secret is equal to a final Secret.

What do the terms “active”, “current” and “expired” security clearance mean?

An “active” security clearance is one in which the candidate is presently eligible for access to classified information. A “current” security clearance is one in which a candidate has been determined eligible for access to classified information but is not currently eligible without a reinstatement. A candidate has two years to remain on a “current” status before moving to an “expired” status. Both “active” and “current” security clearances are easily transferred between employers. An “expired” clearance is one that has not been used in more than two years and cannot be reinstated. Once sponsored, the candidate must resubmit a security clearance application and go through a new Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) to have access. Individuals with expired security clearances cannot be considered for jobs that require active or current security clearances. The Facility Security Officer (FSO) is the person who can best answer questions about security clearance status.

What are the levels of security clearances and how are they measured?

According to the United States government, levels of security clearance are measured by the amount of damage that would be caused to the United States if that information were to be released to the public or to a foreign source. Security clearances can be issued by many United Stated government agencies, including all branches of the military, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Energy (DoE), the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Security Agency (NSA) or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Major Department of Defense (DoD) security clearances include Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret with Single Scope Background Investigation (TS-SSBI) and Top Secret with Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS-SCI).

To have access to classified information, one must possess the necessary two elements: A level of security clearance, at least equal to the classification of the information, and, appropriate "need to know" information in order to perform their duties. An individual may have a Top Secret clearance but this would not necessarily give them access to all Top Secret information. They would also need to have the "need to know".

It is also worth mentioning that DoD operates its security program separate from other government agencies, with its own procedures and standards. A Top Secret security clearance with DoE, for example, would not necessarily transfer to DoD

Confidential: This refers to information or material, which if improperly disclosed could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security.

Secret: The unauthorized disclosure of secret information or material which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to national security.

Top Secret: Applied to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.

In addition, there is some classified information so sensitive that even the extra protection measures applied to Top Secret information are not sufficient. This information is known as "Sensitive Compartmented Information" (SCI) or Special Access Programs (SAP). These require additional approval to be given for access to this information.

"For Official Use Only" is not a security classification. It is used to protect information covered under the Privacy Act, and other sensitive data.

Who issues the Security Clearance?

Many government agencies issue security clearances. Most Department of Defense (DoD) civilians, contractors and military personnel clearances are issued by the Department of Defense Central Clearance Facility (DoDCAF). However, DIA, NGA and NSA also issue DoD clearances.

The Executive Branch departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs also issue clearances as well as agencies such as CIA, EPA, FCC, GAO, OPM, USITC, etc.

What are the steps for getting a Security Clearance?

For DoD, a cleared contractor identifies an employee with a need to have access to classified information (e.g., the employee will work on a classified contract). Once identified, the Facility Security Officer (FSO) ensures that the employee completes an Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) and submits an investigation request through the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS). Then the FSO reviews, approves and sends the e-QIP to DoDCAF for approval, issuance of an interim clearance and release to OPM. OPM then conducts an investigation, sending results to DoDCAF who then grants a clearance or issues a letter of intent to deny. A similar process is used by other agencies but typically involve a different investigation process.

What is a collateral security clearance?

A collateral security clearance is a clearance with no special access authorizations (e.g., special accesses such as COMSEC or NATO). In other words, Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential are collateral security clearances.

What is a security clearance with a “caveat”?

A security clearance with a caveat is a collateral security clearance, such as Secret or Top Secret, plus a special access. In order to have the special access, the cleared individual usually receives a briefing related to the caveat. COMSEC and NATO are examples of caveats requiring a briefing prior to access.

How do I get a Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access?

Sensitive Compartmented Information, or SCI, is a special access beyond a Confidential (C), Secret (S) or Top Secret (TS). In order to be granted Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access, a security cleared person must first be nominated for a position where special access is required and then approved by the Federal Contractor or other Government Agency holding the sensitive information.

Can a naturalized citizen get a Personnel Security Clearance?

Yes. A naturalized citizen is to be treated as a US citizen. However, the naturalized citizen may have to provide information on his or her clearance application regarding foreign relatives, associations, etc.

What type of information is requested on a security clearance application?

The amount and detail of information varies with the level of security clearance requested. It may include family information, past and current work history, locations where you have lived, roommate names, financial history, travel history, groups or affiliations, and more.

How are security clearances granted?

Once it is determined that an individual requires a security clearance because of assignment or job, the individual is instructed to complete a Security Clearance Background Investigation Questionnaire. As of May 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD), and now the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), require that this form be completed by use of a computer software program, known as e-QIP. For more information see the OPM website.

When completing the questionnaire, for Confidential, and Secret security clearances, it’s necessary to provide information for the previous five years. For Top Secret security clearances, one must provide information for the previous ten years.

If an applicant realizes, after completing the e-QIP an error or omission has been made, he or she should immediately tell his or her Facility Security Officer. If errors or omissions are not mentioned, they could be held against the security clearance candidate during the adjudicative process.

What determines approval or disapproval?

It’s important to note that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not make any security clearance determinations or recommendations. They simply gather information. Once the information has been verified, and the investigations completed, OPM presents the information to the specific military service or agency adjudicator authority (each agency or service has their own), who determine whether or not to grant the security clearance, using standards set by that particular agency or service.

Primarily, adjudicators look for honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, and reliability. On cases that contain significant derogatory information warranting additional action, the adjudicator may draft a request for additional investigation/information, or request psychiatric or alcohol and drug evaluation. Even so, adjudicators are not the final authority. All denials of security clearances must be personally reviewed by a branch chief, or higher.

The adjudicator considers the following factors when evaluating an individual’s conduct:

  • The nature, extent and seriousness of the conduct
  • The circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation
  • The frequency of the conduct
  • How recently the conduct occurred
  • The individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct
  • The voluntariness of participation
  • The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other pertinent behavioral changes
  • The motivation for the conduct
  • The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress; and
  • The likelihood of continuation of the conduct

Accordingly, each case is judged on its own merits and final determination remains the responsibility of the specific department or agency. Any doubt as to whether access to classified information is clearly consistent with national security will be resolved in favor of the national security. Because of a recent change in the law, there are some factors which will positively result in the denial of a security clearance. As a result of the Smith Amendment, the FY01 Defense Authorization Act amended Chapter 49 of Title 10, United States Code, and precluded in the initial granting or renewal of a security clearance by the Department of Defense (DoD) under the following four specific circumstances:

  • An individual has been convicted in any court of the U.S. of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
  • An individual is (currently) an unlawful user of, or is addicted to, a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 or the Controlled Substances Act (21U.S.C. 802)).
  • An individual is mentally incompetent, as determined by a mental health professional approved by the OPM.
  • An individual has been discharged or dismissed from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions.

The statute also provides that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Military Department concerned may authorize an exception to the provisions concerning convictions, dismissals and discharges from the armed force in meritorious cases.

Why would I be denied a security clearance?

The Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information are used by the DoD Central Adjudication Facilities to determine both initial and continued eligibility for access to classified information. The adjudication process is an examination of a sufficient period of a person’s life to make an affirmative determination that the person is an acceptable security risk. Eligibility for access to classified information is predicated upon the individual meeting these personnel security guidelines. The adjudication process is the careful weighing of a number of variables known as the whole-person concept. All available, reliable information about the person, past and present, favorable and unfavorable, is considered in reaching a security clearance determination. When an individual’s life history shows evidence of unreliability or untrustworthiness, questions arise whether the individual can be relied on and trusted to exercise the responsibility necessary for working in a secure environment where protection of classified information is paramount.

What option do those who have a security clearance revoked or denied have to regain or attain a security clearance?

An individual whose security clearance has been denied or revoked by a central adjudication facility has the opportunity to appeal the decision. The process for doing so differs between military and civilian personnel and contractors. Executive Order 12968, "Access to Classified Information," prescribes the process for military and civilian personnel. Executive Order 10865, "Safeguarding Classified Information Within Industry," outlines the process for Federal contractors.

For contractor personnel, the denial, revocation and appeal process is the responsibility of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). The individual may request a hearing before a DOHA administrative judge in order to provide additional, relevant information and will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Upon completion of the hearing, the administrative judge will render a decision. If the decision is to deny or revoke the security clearance, the individual has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Appeal Board. The Appeal Board will review the case file and render its decision. This decision is final and concludes the appeal process.

At the conclusion of the appeal process, an individual whose security clearance has been denied or revoked may not reapply for a security clearance for one year from the date of the final decision. The individual may reapply for a security clearance through his or her employing activity if there is a need for access to classified information. The individual is responsible for providing documentation that the circumstances or conditions which resulted in the denial or revocation have been rectified or sufficiently mitigated to warrant reconsideration. The central adjudication facility may accept or reject the reapplication. If a person has been denied a clearance by a DOHA decision, he/she must first petition the Director of DOHA for permission to proceed with adjudication. In making such application it is vital to demonstrate how the security concerns have been mitigated since the decision. If approval is granted this does mean an automatic granting of a clearance. The application will be adjudicated a new clearance and there is a possibility it could be denied.

Will my security clearance transfer to other federal agencies?

In most cases it will transfer but it is strongly recommended that you check with your Facility Security Officer (FSO) to make sure. All federal agencies adjudicate using the 13 Adjudication Guidelines and reciprocal recognition of existing security clearance adjudications throughout the national security community is strongly emphasized by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB has issued guidelines regarding reciprocity of access eligibility determinations to ensure that investigations are only conducted to grant new security clearances when they are actually required.

Where can I get assistance completing my security clearance package or inquire about the status of my security clearance?

The company Facility Security Officer (FSO) should be the first contact for assistance in completing a security clearance package or to inquire into the status of a security clearance. The applicant may want to hire legal counsel to assist in answering the security clearance questionnaire, and especially if a denial results in the issuance of a Statement of Reasons.

What are polygraphs?

Polygraphs are special tests that can be administered to help determine an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information.

The use of the polygraph for any DoD program is governed by DoD regulations. The DoD regulations detail the exact manner in which the examination must be conducted. No relevant question may be asked during the polygraph examination that has not been reviewed with the person to be examined before the examination, and all questions must have a special relevance to the inquiry. Certain "validating" questions may be asked without prior disclosure to establish a baseline from which the examiners can judge the validity of the answers to the relevant questions. The probing of a person's thoughts or beliefs, or questions on subjects that are not directly relevant to the investigation, such as religious or political beliefs or beliefs and opinions about racial matters, are prohibited.

What are the differences between Counter Intelligence, Lifestyle, and Full Scope?

The purpose of a polygraph is to determine, to the greatest extent possible, whether or not any given applicant can be trusted with sensitive information. Two types of polygraphs exist, and either one or both polygraphs may be administered to the candidate in question. Polygraphs are conducted by trained polygraph examiners who have been trained in polygraph administration.

A Counter Intelligence polygraph asks the candidate questions limited to the subject’s allegiance to the United States. The questions are based on foreign contacts, foreign associations, etc. A Counter Intelligence polygraph is the most common polygraph.

A Lifestyle Polygraph asks the candidate questions that concern the individual’s personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior. Questions asked might concern drug and alcohol use, sexual preference and behavior, mental health, family relationships, compulsive or addictive behavior, and more. A Lifestyle polygraph attempts to look for issues in a person’s private life for that which he or she might be blackmailed. A Full Scope polygraph is a combination of both the Counter Intelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs.

Can I obtain a security clearance on my own?

No an individual cannot obtain a security clearance on their own. There are two ways for an individual to obtain a security clearance: joining the U.S. military or being sponsored by an employer who is able to process candidates to receive security clearances.

Can a non-US citizen obtain a security clearance?

According to the United States government, only legal United States citizens can obtain security clearances. In rare instances, individuals with highly specialized skills and experience may also be considered for the security clearance process.

How long does a security clearance take to process?

Processing timeframes have improved greatly in the past several years, and are now measured in months vs. years. However some individuals may see processing times of up to a year or more. Three distinct parts of the process are: pre-investigation (filling out the appropriate forms), investigation, (the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the background check on the individual), and adjudication (an OPM representative reviews the investigation results along with other information and makes a determination on security clearance award).

Do security clearances have different statutes?

Security clearance status can be active or current and is determined by when the security clearance was last used. If an individual’s present job requires use of a security clearance, that clearance is referred to as “active”. If an individual has not used his or her security clearance in a job in the past two years, that clearance is referred to as “current”. If a person has not used his or her security clearance in more than two years that clearance is referred to as “expired”. Active security clearances are transferable between employers who are approved to hold security clearances but it is always recommended to check with the Facility Security Officer (FSO) before accepting a position with another employer.

If I am granted a security clearance, who will notify me?

When a security clearance is granted, the individual will be notified by the Facility Security Officer (FSO). Before being given access to classified information, the employing organization must also give the newly cleared individual a security briefing. To find out the status of a security clearance, contact the Facility Security Officer (FSO).

What is the value of a security clearance?

Professionals with active security clearances are in high demand in many industries, occupations and professional levels. The nation’s security is a high priority for the United States government and its contractors, and there is a need for qualified security cleared individuals at every level. While individuals with high security clearance levels are very desirable, there are also important needs at every clearance level.

Many contractors say that a security clearance is needed to apply for their jobs. How can I get a security clearance in advance so I can apply for these jobs and can I pay for it myself?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has no procedure for an individual to independently apply for an investigation or security clearance. Security clearances are based on investigations requested by Federal agencies, appropriate to specific positions and their duties. Until a person is offered such a position, the government will not request or pay for an investigation for a security clearance. Once a person has been offered a job (contingent upon satisfactory completion of an investigation), the government will require the person to complete an e-QIP, initiate the investigation, adjudicate the results, and issue the appropriate security clearance.

We know that some DoD contractors require applicants to already have a security clearance, and they have the right to administer their personnel hiring procedures the way they think is best as long as they don't discriminate based on prohibited factors (such as race or religion).

Doesn’t the FBI conduct all Federal background investigations?

OPM, DoD, and a few other agencies share this responsibility. The FBI mostly conducts investigations on the following: High level Presidential appointees, Cabinet officers, and agency heads and staff who may work at the White House directly for the President, and DOJ employees.

Can I see if I am qualified for a security clearance?

No. It is not possible to "pre-apply" for a security clearance. Not all Federal employees or contractors have security clearances. Individuals who are tentatively selected for government jobs (or as Federal contractors) will be investigated as appropriate. If access to National Security Information is required, you will need to complete a security questionnaire and an investigation will be conducted. If the investigation results are favorable, a security clearance will be granted if appropriate.

If an individual had a security clearance or a favorable personnel security investigation (PSI) in the past, can they now get a security clearance for another position?

In order to be issued a security clearance for another position, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • For a security clearance at a security cleared facility under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) the termination date of the applicant’s former clearance must have been within the past 24 months, and there must not have been any subsequent adverse information on the applicant that would preclude them from being issued a new clearance. If an applicant does not meet these requirements, the employing organization may ask the applicant to complete an e-QIP which enables the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to perform a personnel security investigation (PSI).
  • For Federal or Military Service, the date the applicant left prior federal or military service must have occurred less than 24 months ago. However, there must not have been any subsequent adverse information on the applicant that would preclude them from being issued a new security clearance.
  • In addition, if the applicants initial investigation or periodic reinvestigation (PR) was not completed within the timeframe described in the answer to the previous question, an investigation may have to be requested before the applicant can be granted another security clearance.

After a security clearance is granted, can it later be revoked?

Yes. There is a continuing evaluation requirement for all personnel holding security clearances. Department of Defense (DoD) regulations require the military services and DoD agencies to establish security programs so that supervisory personnel know their responsibilities in matters pertaining to the security cleared individuals under their supervision. Such programs provide practical guidance as to indicators that may signal matters of possible concern which would call into question whether it is in the best interests of the country for an individual to continue to hold a security clearance. Each service and agency provides supervisors with specific instructions regarding reporting procedures (for adverse information). Facility Security Officers (FSOs) are also obligated under the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) to report adverse information on security cleared employees. If considered necessary, on review of the reported information, the appropriate authority can request an investigation to determine whether that individual’s security clearance should be removed. In cases of grave concern, a security clearance can even be suspended pending the results of the investigation.

For what reasons could an individual be denied a security clearance?

There is no one thing that will result in denial of a security clearance and there are not many instances in which a person’s security clearance is denied. Security clearance adjudicators use a documented guide and “formula” to determine whether or not the individual is eligible for a security clearance. In an applicant, they look for honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, and reliability. On cases that contain significant derogatory information, further investigation is usually required.

There are, however, four criteria which will positively result in the denial of a security clearance: an individual has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison for more than one year, an applicant is (currently) an illegal user of, or is addicted to, a controlled substance, the applicant is mentally incompetent, or the individual has been discharged or dismissed from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions.

When there is an issue with a candidate and more review needs to occur prior to granting or denying a security clearance, the paperwork is forwarded to the Department of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) for further processing.DOHA puts all the information together, provides its recommendation and then goes to the requesting government agency for a final decision. Once the decision is made, the applicant is notified. In addition, the applicant is allowed a detailed appeal process.

What is the EPSQ (Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire)?

Until July 2005, the EPSQ was the electronic security clearance application used within the National Industrial Security Program (NISP). Currently the e-QIP is used.

What is an e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing)?

The e-QIP is the automated request for personnel security investigations which in July, 2005, replaced the Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire (EPSQ). 

What is the JPAS (Joint Personnel Adjudication System)?

The Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) is the official personnel security clearance database management system for DoD. All National Industrial Security Program (NISP) cleared contractors will use this system for all types of personnel clearance actions. For more information, visit the JPAS website.

Where can I get assistance completing my security clearance package or inquire about the status of my security clearance?

The company Facility Security Officer (FSO) should be the first contact for assistance in completing a security clearance package or to inquire into the status of a security clearance. The DoD Security Services Center is available for applicants applying for a position with DoD or an associated contractor. They can be reached at 888-282-7682 or via email [email protected]. Applicants for other government agencies should contact their FSO or human resources official.

Security Clearance Investigations

Who conducts security clearance background investigations?

The Department of Defense has entered into an agreement with OPM to conduct the majority of the Personnel Security Investigations (PSIs) performed in connection with granting access to classified information. OPM uses government and contract investigators to conduct these security clearance investigations.

What is a PSI?

A PSI is a necessary step in the process of obtaining a security clearance. It is an inquiry into an individual's loyalty, character, trustworthiness and reliability to ensure that he or she is eligible to access classified information, or for an appointment to a sensitive position or position of trust.

Why are PSIs and security clearances necessary?

PSIs and security clearances are key elements in protecting the security of the United States. PSIs and security clearances are required to counter the threats that may stem from:

  • Foreign intelligence services
  • Organizations or people who wish to overthrow or undermine the United States government through unconstitutional means, violent acts, or other terrorist group activities
  • Individuals who may be susceptible to pressure or improper influence, or have been dishonest or demonstrated a lack of integrity that has caused others to doubt their reliability.

What are the various types of investigations for obtaining or maintaining a security clearance?

Periodic Reinvestigation

A periodic reinvestigation (PR) is when a currently cleared individual is required to review, update and resubmit his or her security clearance application for a reinvestigation. Periodic Reinvestigations are routinely required every 5 years for those with Top Secret security clearances, every 10 years for those with Secret security clearances and every 15 years for those with Confidential security clearances. A PR is done to ensure that a candidate should still have access to classified information. Random PRs are also administered at the discretion of the granting federal agency.

National Agency Check

A National Agency Check (NAC) is the type of investigation required for a Secret or Confidential security clearance. It includes a thorough review of the candidate's national and local records. It generally does not require an interview with an investigator.

Single Scope Background Investigation

A Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) is a more detailed investigation and is required for a Top Secret (TS) investigation. It includes a review of the applicant's national and local records and an interview with an investigator.

Special Inquiry Investigation

A Special Inquiry Investigation (SII) is a special investigation conducted when some type of adverse information has been reported/discovered on a security cleared individual.

Trustworthiness Investigation

A Trustworthiness Investigation is not conducted for a security clearance. It is requested when an applicant is going to have access to Sensitive but Unclassified Information. For example, Trustworthiness Investigations are sometimes conducted on those that will have access to a sensitive site (e.g., cleaning crew on a military installation).

How often will a PR be done?

After the initial Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) is completed, a PR is required every 5 years for a Top Secret security clearance, 10 years for a Secret security clearance, or 15 years for a Confidential security clearance. However, civilian and military personnel working for DoD can be randomly reinvestigated before they are due for a PR.

What can I do to speed the investigation process?

A lot of detailed information is required to conduct a background investigation. Information such as complete names, addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of birth for relatives will be required. An applicant may have to collect 10 years worth of names, addresses, etc. The form the security clearance applicant completes is on-line. The online form allows applicants the chance to submit additional information, one time, after the original submission. It is always best to gather all information ahead of time. Incomplete or incorrect information can significantly delay the investigation. For information on what is needed to complete the application, see the Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) FAQ. When periodic updates are required, the applicant will only need to update information that has changed since the initial submission. If the applicant would like to preview the type of information that will be required, he or she can access the e-Qip FAQ and begin collecting information so it will be available when needed.

Security Clearance for Facilities

What is the National Industrial Security Program (NISP)?

The NISP is the industrial security program regulated by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Security Service (DSS). In addition to Department of Defense (DoD) agencies, there are 23 additional federal government participants. The main regulation document under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) for cleared contractors is the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM).

What is a Facility?

The term facility is used within the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) as a common designation for an operating entity consisting of a plant, laboratory, office, college, university, or commercial structure with associated warehouse, storage areas, utilities and components, which are related by function or location. It does not refer to Government installations.

What is a Facility Security Clearance?

A Facility Security Clearance (FCL) is an administrative determination that, from a national security standpoint, a facility is eligible for access to classified information at the same or lower classification category as the security clearance being granted. The Facility Security Clearance (FCL) may be granted at the Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret level. The Facility Security Clearance (FCL) includes the execution of a Department of Defense Security Agreement (DD Form 441). Under the terms of the agreement, the Government agrees to issue the Facility Security Clearance (FCL) and inform the contractor as to the security classification of information to which the contractor will have access. The contractor, in turn, agrees to abide by the security requirements set forth in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, commonly referred to as the NISPOM. 

How does a company get a Facility Security Clearance (FCL)?

A company must be sponsored by a government agency or a security cleared contractor for a Facility Security Clearance (FCL). A contractor cannot sponsor itself for an FCL.

Once a request is made, what is involved in getting a Facility Security Clearance?

When the Facility Clearance Branch at DISCO determines that the request is valid, processing information is relayed to the appropriate Defense Security Service (DSS) Industrial Security Field Office. The facility is then assigned to a DSS Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep). The IS Rep will obtain information concerning the facility, provide the facility with instructions on completing the necessary forms, and provide basic information about the National Industrial Security Program (NISP). The Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) will also provide guidance to the facility in establishing an industrial security program.

Who has to be cleared in connection with a Facility Security Clearance (FCL)?

A Defense Security Service (DSS) Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) with the help of the company’s point of contact will determine which individuals must be cleared in connection with the Facility Security Clearance (FCL). Ordinarily, those that have control over the company (e.g., the CEO, President, Executive VP and/or other officers or board members) and the Facility Security Officer (FSO) must be cleared. Those individuals cleared in connection with a Facility Security Clearance (FCL) are called Key Management Personnel (KMP).

What happens if a “controlling” officer cannot be cleared in connection with the Facility Security Clearance (FCL)?

The facility is not eligible for a Facility Security Clearance (FCL). Alternatively, the officer must officially step down from his or her title as an officer/director and relinquish control of the facility. Most of the time these impediments may be overcome by adopting a corporate board resolution listing the restrictions and prohibitions applied to the shareholder or employee. The IS Reps are very helpful in assisting with the preparation, adoption by the company, and acceptance by DSS.

How much does it cost to get a Facility Security Clearance (FCL) Personnel Security Clearance (PCL)?

At this time, there is no direct charge for a Facility Security Clearance (FCL) or Personnel Security Clearance (PCL).

What does the Facility Security Clearance (FCL) cost the contractor?

There is no direct charge to the contractor for processing a Facility Security Clearance (FCL). However, the contractor is responsible for security costs associated with participation in the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) (such as classified storage containers, etc.). Accordingly, contractors should determine their security requirements and related costs and consider such costs when submitting a bid. The Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) can assist the facility in determining the necessary security requirements.

What type of security controls must be in place if a facility is security cleared?

The NISP Operating Manual prescribes the minimum security requirements that must be fulfilled by security cleared contractors. The Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) can provide guidance to the contractor in implementing these requirements in their facility. The implementation of these requirements will ensure the adequate safeguarding of the classified information involved. In some cases, Government agencies have requirements for additional safeguards. For example, if your contract requires you to institute a Special Access Program (SAP), additional controls beyond those normally required will be necessary. Such controls can include special security clearances and investigative requirements.

How long does the facility security clearance remain in effect?

The facility security clearance remains in effect as long as the Department of Defense Security Agreement (DD Form 441), is effective. This agreement may be terminated by either party by thirty days notice. Generally, most facility security clearances remain in effect as long as there is a need for the contractor to have access to classified information.

Can the government conduct inspections of a cleared facility?

Periodic security reviews of all security cleared contractors are conducted by the assigned Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) to ensure that safeguards employed by contractors are adequate for the protection of classified information. The IS Rep will determine the frequency of such formal reviews, but a review will normally be conducted annually.