Frequently Asked Questions:

The following are Frequently Asked Questions concerning the process for obtaining a personnel security clearance in the Department of Defense. This information is current as of September 2013.

Q: What is a personnel security clearance?

• A personnel security clearance is an administrative determination by competent authority that an individual is eligible, from a security standpoint, under national security standards for access to classified information.

Q: What is the process for obtaining a personnel security clearance?

  • The personnel security process has three parts:
  • Q: Who conducts personnel security investigations?

    • OPM currently conducts the majority of the personnel security investigations (PSIs) performed in connection with granting access to classified information. The Director of National Intelligence, as the “Security Executive Agent” per Executive Order (E.O.) 13467directs the oversight of investigations and determinations of eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position made by any agency. The Director of National Intelligence in concert with the Director, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the “Suitability Executive Agent” per E.O. 13467, now issue Federal Investigative Standards in coordination with representatives across the Federal Government.

    Q: How often are investigations updated?

    • Current policy states that individuals with Top Secret clearances will have a reinvestigation every five years. Those with Secret and Confidential clearances will have a reinvestigation every ten years.

    Q: What kind of investigation is conducted to make this determination?

    • The kind, or type, of investigation conducted depends on the access level that the individual is required to have to perform his or her official duties. For access to Confidential or Secret information by contractors and military personnel, a National Agency Check with Local Agency Checks and Credit Check (NACLC) is completed. For access to Confidential or Secret information by federal employees, an Access National Agency Check and Inquiries (ANACI) is required. Access to Top Secret or SCI information requires a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI), regardless of whether one is a civilian, contractor, or military service member.

    Q: What is the difference between a NACLC and a SSBI?

    • A NACLC is comprised of:

    o National Agency Check (e.g., a check of the FBI criminal history repository).

    o Credit check for all locations at which the applicant has worked, been employed, or attended school for six months or more for the most recent seven years.

    o A check of local law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the areas where the applicant has lived, worked, or attended school for the most recent five years.

    • A SSBI is comprised of:

    o A National Agency Check (e.g., a check of the FBI criminal history repository).

    o Credit check for all locations at which the applicant has worked, been employed, or attended school for six months or more for the most recent seven years.

    o A check of local law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the areas where the applicant has lived, worked, or attended school for the most recent ten years.

    o Corroboration of the most recent or most significant claimed attendance, degree or diploma at an educational institution.

    o Verification of all employments for the past seven years to include personal interviews of supervisors and/or co-workers.

    o Corroboration of unemployment.

    o Four reference interviews.

    o Interview with former spouse (s).

    o Confirmation of all residences.

    o Verification of public record information.

    o Interview of the individual.

    Q: What is the process for obtaining a personnel security clearance?

    • The personnel security process has three parts:

    o The request for investigation. The Security Office of each military unit, government agency or cleared contractor facility is responsible for requesting the appropriate investigation on their personnel.

    o The personnel security investigation (PSI). In most cases, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for conducting the PSI.

    o The adjudication. The DoD Central Adjudication Facility will make the adjudicative decision.

    Q: Does everyone adjudicate to the same standards?

    • Yes. All executive branch CAFs adjudicate PSIs using the same national security standards, found in the Adjudication Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, which were issued pursuant to Executive Order 12968, “Access to Classified Information,” dated August 2, 1995. These national security adjudicative guidelines were revised in December 2005.

    • The 13 Adjudication Guidelines are:

    o Allegiance to the United States

    o Foreign Influence

    o Foreign Preference

    o Sexual Behavior

    o Personal Conduct

    o Financial Considerations

    o Alcohol Consumption

    o Drug Involvement

    o Psychological Conditions o Criminal Conduct

    o Handling Protected Information

    o Outside Activities

    o Misuse of Information Technology

    • Each Guideline is comprised of three parts: 1) the Concern, 2) Potentially Disqualifying Conditions, and, 3) Mitigating Factors.

    o The Concern is a simple statement that sets forth the concerns the security community has about each Adjudicative Guideline. o The Potentially Disqualifying Conditions are conditions that, if present in the applicant’s life, may potentially disqualify him or her for eligibility or access.

    o The Mitigating Factors are used by adjudicators to balance against the Potentially Disqualifying Conditions. The Mitigating Factors consist of conditions that, if present in the applicant’s life, may cancel or lessen the severity of the Potentially Disqualifying Conditions.

    Q: Can security clearances be revoked or denied? If so, for what reasons?

    • Yes. The Adjudication Guidelines are used by the DoD CAF 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 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.

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

    • An individual whose security clearance has been denied or revoked by the CAF has the opportunity to appeal the decision. The process for doing so differs between military/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 contactors.

    Q: What is ‘reciprocity?’

    • All federal agencies adjudicate using the 13 Adjudication Guidelines and reciprocal recognition of existing personnel security clearance adjudications throughout the national security community is strongly emphasized by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB has issued guidance regarding reciprocity of access eligibility determinations to ensure that investigations are only conducted to grant new security clearances when they are actually required.

    Q: What is the role of the Defense Security Service in the personnel clearance process?

    • With the establishment of the DoD CAF, DSS no longer adjudicates personnel security clearance eligibility for industry personnel under the NISP. DSS did retain all other functions associated with personnel security management for industry to include review and submission of the Electronic Questionnaires or Investigations Processing (e-QIP), personnel security management and oversight for industry, international visit requests and security assurances, as well as statistical analysis and funding of the PSI program for industry.

    Q: What is an interim clearance?

    An interim security clearance is based on the completion of minimum set of investigative requirements and is granted on a temporary basis, pending the completion of the full investigative requirements. Interim clearances require favorable review of application forms, initiation of the required full investigation, and favorable review of local and security-related records and databases. Interim clearances authorize access to no higher than SECRET classified information. Access to TOP SECRET requires favorable adjudication of completed investigation results