Policy Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding policies affecting the National Industrial Security Program. Please keep in mind that the below responses may not be all inclusive. There may be situations where additional requirements may apply; please refer to the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) for additional clarification.
Use of Legacy Operating Systems, such as Windows XP
Q: In light of the recent end of life for Windows XP, can DSS provide their position on continued use of Windows XP now that it is no longer supported by the vendor, making it a legacy operating system?
A:DSS, in addressing this question regarding the use of Windows XP, will publish the following guidance in the next revision of the ODAA Process Manual. The guidance addresses the use of all legacy O/S, includes those which are accredited but later become non-compliant due to lack of vendor support.
Legacy (non-compliant) Operating Systems
Legacy O/S are those systems that are no longer receiving support from the vendor. ODAA may approve legacy O/S when required for operational necessity and program requirements. Use of the legacy O/S will be included in contractual requirements or the government customer must provide a letter (signed by the Contracting Officer, the Contracting Officer's Representative, the Contracting Officer's Technical Representative, or the Government Program Manager) stating there is a program requirement to use the legacy O/S and the GCA acknowledges the risk associated with its use.
When information systems are accredited by DSS and subsequently the O/S loses vendor support, continued operation IAW the SSP is authorized; however, a Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) entry will be made to address the transition to an operating system with continued vendor support at the time of reaccreditation. In those cases where a legacy O/S cannot be upgraded due to operational necessity or incompatibilities with program requirements, or the manufacturing process, the ISSM must submit a risk acknowledgement letter from the GCA, as described above.
A mature program or old manufacturing process should not require approval of additional legacy systems. Any growth in the program should be accomplished by use of compliant operating systems.
Self-certification will not be granted for new information systems requiring the use of legacy O/S; however, the ISSM may replace workstations (as necessary) on currently accredited information systems which operate with the legacy O/S to maintain the effectiveness of the program. If an MSSP contains multiple O/S, that MSSP may still be used for self-certification of new IS using only those O/S which have continued support by the vendor.
When necessary for reaccreditation of a system requiring continued use of a legacy O/S, the signed customer letter must be provided along with the system documentation when requesting an accreditation decision. The customer letter must identify the following information:
- System UID
- Operating System
- Operating environment
- NISPOM requirement(s) that cannot be met and how the requirement is mitigated
- Acknowledgement of the associated risk with the legacy O/S
Once approved, the signed customer letter must be retained as an attachment in the IS profile as security relevant documentation for the specific system. Continued use of the legacy O/S must be revisited during each subsequent reaccreditation.
A: If an O/S becomes unsupported, a POAM is required for the current system to identify the vulnerability and plan for reaccreditation with an approved O/S. Reaccredited systems will not have legacy O/S, so no associated POA&M entry is necessary unless the legacy O/S is operationally required. If the legacy O/S is still operationally required at the time of reaccreditation, a POA&M will be required addressing the vulnerability, along with a letter from the customer addressing the operational necessity and acknowledging the risk associated with its continued use.
Q: Are UNIX O/S included in this guidance? Since there is no real vendor, how do we determine when it is no longer supported? Are we going to have a list of "legacy" operating systems to share with industry?
A: Yes, known versions of Unix based O/S which are unsupported by the vendor are included in the guidance for legacy O/S. It is up to the ISSM to determine and identify these O/S to ODAA when they become unsupported. Each instance will be considered on a case by case basis and no "list" will be maintained by DSS.
Reporting Conduct Involving Marijuana
Q: Are contractors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana, or in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use, possession, production, processing and distribution of marijuana, required to report use, possession, production, processing, or distribution of marijuana by cleared contractor personnel?
A:YES, any of these activities must be reported as adverse information in accordance with NISPOM paragraph 1-302.a.
Accountability of TS Documents on Information Systems and Electronic Information
A: The NISPOM defines a document as "Any recorded information, regardless of the nature of the medium or the method or circumstances of recording." When documents are in electronic form and stored on another medium (e.g. hard drive or optical disc) each TS document on the medium must be accounted for individually.
Q:If multiple documents are stored on the electronic media, are NISP contractors required to maintain accountability of each TS digital document stored on a system's hard drive or account for the TS hard drive only?
A: When documents are in electronic form and stored on another medium (e.g. hard drive or optical disc) each TS document on the medium must be accounted for individually, in addition to the medium itself (if removable).
A: Any such report of loss must identify each individual document and item when a loss occurs. When multiple items are placed on the same medium, each having their own control number, they must be accounted for separately.
A: No. The contractor is required to ensure that documents they prepare, and the documents prepared by their subcontractor, to meet the performance requirements of a contract are properly marked. That may require the contractor to seek clarification of markings from the GCA/preparer when improperly marked material is incorporated, paraphrased, restated or generated in a new form and it impacts proper derivative classification/marking of the new material. In all cases, if the improper markings impact the proper handling of the classified material, the contractor will seek clarification from the GCA/preparer.
A: CDSE courseware on derivative classification can be found at:
- http://cdsetrain.dtic.mil/derivative/index.htm (This course includes an exam built into the course. A STEPP account is not required for access to the course.)
- http://www.cdse.edu/catalog/elearning/IF103.html.(This course has a separate exam the cleared contractor must pass in order to receive credit for this course. A STEPP account is required for access to the course and exam.)
- CDSE - Marking Classified Information IF105.16
- CDSE - Marking Classified Information (Job Aid)
CDSE job aid on derivative classification The Derivative Classification Training Job Aid at the Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE)website has detailed guidance:
In addition to the above derivative classification training, the following marking course and training material provides additional information and guidance on derivative classification marking requirements:
Annotating the DD Form 254 to indicate the use of AIS
Q: (6/26/13) Cleared contractors, and DSS personnel alike, have recognized that different sections on the DD Form 254 are being used to specify and authorize the use of an automated information system (AIS) in performance of classified contracts. These inconsistencies have generated the following questions: “What items on the DD Form 254 authorize the use of an Automated Information System (AIS) for processing classified information?” and “What must be annotated on the DD Form 254 prior to submitting a request for ODAA approval?”.
A: The simple answer is by marking item 11.c. as “YES”, the GCA (or Prime contractor) authorizes the contractor to receive and generate classified material in the performance of that specific contract. It is understood that AIS are a primary means for receiving and generating information; therefore, when 11.c. is marked “YES”, it justifies the contractor submitting a system security plan(s) for approval by DSS/ODAA to fulfill contractual obligations. No other annotations are required on the form.
Q: Can the DD Form 254, "Department of Defense (DoD) Contract Security Classification Specification" be used to convey security requirements for other than classified material to contractors?
A: The DD Form 254 is one part of the documents included in a classified contract. Its purpose is to convey security classification guidance and to advise contractors on the handling procedures for classified material. The GCA may use the DD Form 254 to provide guidance regarding unclassified information associated with the classified contract. Block 10.j is intended to indicate "For Official Use Only" (FOUO), Block 10.k can be used for any type of information. If Block 10.j or 10.k is checked then details should be provided in Block 13.
DSS provides oversight of classified information under the National Industrial Security Program. The GCA is responsible for oversight of unclassified information provided to contractors. The fact that the DD Form 254 provides guidance on unclassified information does not change the oversight responsibilities.
The DSS Center for Development and Security Excellence (CDSE) guide for preparing the DD Form 254 can be found here.
Marking Removable Media
(It’s important to note that the intent of the markings is to ensure that the classification of the item is clear to the holder (NISPOM 4-200) so that proper protection can be provided.)
Q: How is removable media marked and labeled?
A: DSS recognizes these forms of media as special types of material (NISPOM 4-210.a.) generally containing multiple files and coming in all shapes and sizes, which makes marking and labeling more difficult than for individual documents. Such media often contain both unclassified and classified documents and may include multiple categories of information and/or handling caveats. Therefore, the highest classification of any classified item contained within the media (overall marking) along with any and all associated categories/caveats (e.g., CNWDI, NATO) shall be conspicuously marked (stamped, printed, etched, written, engraved, painted, or affixed by means of a tag, sticker, decal, or similar device) on the exterior of such material (or, if such marking is not possible, on documentation that accompanies the media) so it is clear to the holder. If each document on a removable device contains all of the required information for that document, only the overall classification and associated caveats markings must be marked on the exterior of the device. Other notations such as names, addresses, subjects/titles, source of classification and declassification instructions are not necessary on the exterior of removable media.
Q: What items are considered to be removable media?
A: Removable media is any type of storage device that can be removed from a computer while the system is running. This includes removable media which is inserted into readers and drives integrated into the system (e.g., Optical discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs), memory cards (CompactFlash card, Secure Digital card, Memory Stick), floppy disks, Zip disks, and magnetic tapes), as well as those readers and drives which themselves are removable (e.g., USB Flash Drives and External Hard Disk Drives).
Note: Examples are not all inclusive. If you are unsure if your equipment falls into this category, contact your local DSS Representative (i.e. Information System Security Professional) for assistance.
Q: Are easily removed hard drives (e.g. sled mounted and those found in laptops) considered removable media and should they be marked as such?
A: No, these devices do not fit the definition of removable media since they generally cannot be removed while the system is running. Users should take care not to confuse these devices with external hard drives, which are removable media.
Although not considered removable media, these items have similar marking requirement (8-306a) to bear a conspicuous label stating the highest classification and most restrictive caveats.
Q: What types of removable media needs to be marked?
A: All types of removable media, regardless of their impact to the operation of a system. This includes, but is not limited to: Floppy Disks, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, USB or Flash Drives, External Hard Disk Drives (connected via USB port), etc.
Additionally, unclassified media and systems located in areas approved by the CSA for classified processing must also be marked and labeled so that the overall classification and associated caveats are apparent to the user.
Q: The NISPOM requires weekly audit trail analysis. What is meant by weekly? Does that mean once a calendar week or every seven days?
A: The NISPOM (8-602a.(3)) states audit analysis shall be scheduled and performed at least weekly and shall be documented in the SSP.
There are many variables that could impact the completion of audit trail analysis on a routine basis, which is why a weekly requirement is called for in the NISPOM rather than a strict seven days. Workload priorities, personnel matters, and system availability (just to name a few) may factor in the timeliness of contractor’s audit trail reviews.
Adverse Information Reporting
Q: Are contractors required to submit adverse information reports for an employee with clearance eligibility in JPAS, even if the employee currently does not require access to classified information?
A: Contractors should report adverse information coming to their attention concerning any employee who has current eligibility reflected in JPAS, in accordance with NISPOM 1-302. Also refer to ISL 2011-04.
Answers to FAQs regarding NATO Annual Refresher Briefings
Q: Do contractors have to record the most recent NATO Annual Refresher Briefing date in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS)?
A: Paragraph 10-706 of the NISPOM only requires the NATO initial briefing date and the NATO debriefing date should be recorded in JPAS. The contractor should retain a verifiable record of the most recent NATO Annual Refresher Briefing.
Q: Is DSS required to provide NATO Annual Refresher Briefing to the Facility Security Officer (FSO)?
A: As DSS is required to provide the NATO initial briefing to the FSO, DSS should also provide the NATO Annual Refresher Briefing.
Intrusion Detection System (IDS) for Containers Requiring Supplemental Protection
Q: What are the intrusion detection (alarm sensor) requirements to support the supplemental protection requirements of NISPOM 5-302 and 5-307a for GSA-approved security containers storing TOP SECRET material that are not located in an approved closed area?
A: NISPOM Chapter 5, Section 9 "Intrusion Detection Systems" outlines the application of IDS when required as supplemental protection.
When GSA-approved security containers storing TOP SECRET classified material are located within a room that can be alarmed, the room shall be protected with an intrusion detection systems (IDS) meeting the requirements outlined in NISPOM paragraph 5-904 where the area will be compliant with UL "Extent 3" as described in UL-2050.
When the GSA-approved security container storing TOP SECRET classified material itself is to be protected (rather than being in an alarmed area) the container shall be protected with an IDS providing "Complete" protection which requires the use of alarm sensors on or within the GSA-approved security container storing classified material where IDS is used for supplemental protection. "Complete" protection consists of protection on all surfaces and contacts on each outer door or contacts on the lock and bolt mechanism of each outer door. If all of the drawers or doors of a GSA-approved container lock with a single mechanism and if none can be left unlocked or open when the mechanism is set, a single contact mounted on the control drawer or door on which the mechanism is installed is acceptable. Alternatively, surface protection may consist of linings that comply with the Standard for Linings and Screens applied to a safe or safe cabinet that completely surround the safe. The protection shall be arranged so that an alarm will be initiated if an opening 4 inches (102 mm) in diameter or larger is made in the safe or safe door by any method of attack. To ensure compliance with the extent of protection of "complete" the UL Certified Alarm Services Companies recommends to the user the appropriate sensor type to be installed to meet UL-2050 certification requirements.
Q. What can a company do to facilitate the final eligibility determination for an employee who is currently assigned overseas but has an interim clearance?
A.Contractors can provide advance notice to the Personnel Security Management Office for Industry (PSMO-I) by submitting a Research, Recertify, Upgrade (RRU) request via JPAS advising of the subject's return to a location where an interview can be conducted.
A. Contractor personnel with access granted at the Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential levels must be reinvestigated at 5-, 10- and 15-year intervals, respectively, from the closing date of the previous investigation. To facilitate compliance with submission timeframes, contractors may submit an employee's e-QIP for a PR up to 30 days in advance of the due date. To monitor compliance with PR submission requirements, the Personnel Security Management Office for Industry (PSMO-I) produces monthly reports of overdue PRs and notifies contractors via JPAS of personnel for whom a PR request must be submitted. If the PR request is not submitted within 30 days from issuance of the overdue notification, PSMO-I will remove the employee's eligibility this will show up as a Loss of Jurisdiction (LOJ) in JPAS. Upon receipt of the LOJ, contractors must remove the individual's access to classified information and annotate this in JPAS. Once the PR request is submitted, PSMO-I will remove the LOJ and eligibility will be restored.
PSMO-I notifications, such as those for overdue PRs or LOJ, are only posted within JPAS for 30 days. Contractors are reminded to access JPAS accounts within timeframes that do not exceed 30 days.
Q: Is it necessary for the contractor to maintain the hard copy original "signature pages" (releases and certification) of the SF-86 while the investigation is on-going?
A: Contractors may maintain the entire SF-86 electronically, including signature pages with scanned signatures, as long as it is retrievable if needed and the confidentiality of the document is protected in accordance with NISPOM paragraph 2-202.b. Retained documentation should also be destroyed in accordance with NISPOM 2-202.b.
Q: Can the Joint Personnel Security Adjudication System (JPAS) be used to verify citizenship when processing individuals for personnel security clearances?
A: No. Paragraph 2-208 of the NISPOM describes acceptable proof of citizenship. JPAS may not be used to verify citizenship; however, the fact that an individual has a current active clearance in JPAS can be the basis for assuming that US citizenship was verified as part of the initial investigative process. Individuals who have had a break in access should be asked if there has been any change in their citizenship status since they last worked in a cleared position.
Q: When should the provisions of Executive Order 13526 (Classified National Security Information), dated December 29, 2009, regarding classification and marking guidance, be implemented by contractors operating under the National Industrial Security Program?
Q: How long should companies retain NATO Briefing/Debriefing Certificates and Annual Refresher Briefing Records for employees who require access to NATO Classified Information?
A: Initial Briefing Certificate: The contractor should retain the initial briefing certificate for an employee who has been given access to NATO classified information until the employee no longer requires access, and has been debriefed.
Annual Refresher Briefing: The contractor should retain the current annual refresher briefing record on file until the next annual refresher briefing is completed or the employee is debriefed, whichever occurs first. This requirement applies to all levels of NATO classified information.
Debriefing Certificate – NATO CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET information: The contractor should retain the debriefing certificate for an employee who no longer requires access to NATO CONFIDENTIAL and NATO SECRET information for two years after the debriefing.
Debriefing Certificate – NATO TOP SECRET and all ATOMAL information: The contractor should retain the debriefing certificate for an employee who no longer requires access to NATO TOP SECRET and all ATOMAL information for three years after the debriefing.
Best Practice: For ease of record keeping, use a single form to record both the initial briefing and the debriefing.