Industrial Personnel Security Clearance Process
Processing an Applicant for an Industrial Personnel Security Clearance

High level PCL Process Overview

Step 1: Obtaining a personnel security clearance.

A personnel security clearance is an administrative determination by a certified adjudicator that an individual is eligible under national security standards for access to classified information. In order to make this determination, a personnel security background investigation is conducted. The information collected must be sufficient to allow an affirmative or negative determination of a person's eligibility for access to classified information. The security clearance process begins when a company determines that an employee or candidate for employment requires a personnel security clearance to access classified information in order to perform the duties of his or her position. If the applicant has never held a personnel security clearance, or if their previous clearance was terminated more than 24 months ago, this is referred to as an initial clearance. The employee must complete an Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (e-QIP), signature pages and submit fingerprints electronically for all initial investigation requests.

Step 2: Steps for the FSO to submit a clearance request.

The Facility's Security Officer (FSO) or designee initiates the e-QIP using the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) based on the new Federal Investigative Standards. In some instances, the FSO will receive indication from JPAS that an investigation is not required for the applicant. If this happens, the FSO should check Procedures for Industrial Clearance/Investigation Requests to determine if “Break in Service” should be indicated or contact us. Upon successful initiation of e-QIP via JPAS, the Security Management Office (SMO) will receive a JPAS notification with e-QIP account user instructions and Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is also referred to as a Registration Code. The FSO will provide the e-QIP account user instructions (including the PIN / Registration Code) and the applicant will access the SF86 via the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) e-QIP system. The applicant completes the e-QIP and digitally signs their certification and release forms as part of “Click to Sign” (C2S) feature within the system. The FSO reviews the security clearance package for completeness and provides the employee with written notification that review of the security questionnaire is for adequacy and completeness and the information will be used for no other purposes within the company in accordance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), DoD 5220.22 Manual.

Certification and Release(s)

  • When the applicant opts to electronically submit their signature pages, the FSO can select the ‘Documents’ link which will display all electronically signed signature and release pages. Once all pages have been successfully signed by the applicant, the FSO releases the e-QIP to PSMO-I for review and approval.
  • If the subject opts out of C2S, the FSO should verify the submitted signature pages are generated by the e-QIP system with the specific request number.
  • Certification and Release forms may be scanned and submitted via Safe Access File Exchange (SAFE) to with “SF86 Release Pages” in the subject line. While completing the SAFE request following these specific instructions: Under the Recipient Information - When manually entering the email address, ignore the warning “Do not send SAFE packages to group email accounts.” PSMO-I confirmed the group email address works for the process. Under Email Settings select the first three check boxes only, Encryption and Notifications.

The FSO submits the security clearance package via JPAS to the Personnel Security Management Office for Industry (PSMO-I), an element of the Defense Security Service. Note: PSMO-I does not accept Tier 5 Investigations formerly known as Single Scope Background Investigations (SSBI) submitted as Secret clearance requirements for Automation Data Processing (ADP)/Information Technology (IT) positions, or (NACI) for Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 12 (HSPD-12) positions. Requests for investigations that don’t need access to classified information must be submitted in accordance with procedures available from the Government Contracting Activity (GCA).

Additional clearance request submission instructions:

  • Identify the Government Customer When Requesting an Investigation
  • Completing the 2010 SF 86 in e-QIP
  • If SCI eligibility is required through the military services, JPAS must reflect an SCI SMO. Additionally, DIA and NGA require an SCI nomination package.
  • The FSO can confirm OPM has received the investigation request by checking the SII in JPAS, which will show a "Received" status. For initial investigation requests, the FSO must submit fingerprints electronically to OPM within 14 days of the “Received” status date. (Note: PSMO-I recommends FSOs submit electronic fingerprints the same day as submitting the e-QIP)
  • The FSO can confirm OPM has opened the investigation by checking SII in JPAS which indicates a “Scheduled” status.

Step 3: FSO Submits Electronic Fingerprint

  • In a memorandum dated July 29, 2010, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence issued a requirement for Department of Defense (DoD) components to transition to electronic capture and submission of fingerprint images in support of all background investigations by December 31, 2013 (e-Fingerprint memo). This requirement extends to contractors cleared under the National Industrial Security Program. Consequently, DSS no longer provides FD-258 cards and Industry must either submit fingerprints electronically through DMDC’s Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission (SWFT) or use one of several other alternatives found here.
  • Effective October 1, 2016, all fingerprints associated with SON 346W must be submitted electronically to the Office of Personnel Management, or the fingerprint will be rejected. This will also result in the rejection of any investigation requests if an electronic fingerprint is not received within 14 days of the investigation request being received by OPM. Fingerprints are required for initial investigations and should be submitted through SWFT immediately after the e-QIP has been released to the PSMO-I. Please note, it is not necessary to associate the e-QIP number with the electronic fingerprint file.
  • The FSO can confirm OPM has processed the fingerprints by checking SII in JPAS which indicates a “SAC” closed. Fingerprint results are valid for 120 days.

Step 4: PSMO-I review and processing.

PSMO-I reviews all industrial applicant security clearance packages for completeness prior to forwarding to the organization that conducts the investigation. Interim Secrets and Interim Top Secrets can only be granted based on the following criteria:

  • Favorable Review of the SF-86
  • Favorable FP check
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Favorable Review of the Local Records, if applicable

Once the Advanced products are returned from OPM, PSMO-I will then make an interim Top Secret determination for cases with no previous eligibility.

In the case where an applicant has already had a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity, PSMO-I can check the files and systems available to them to determine if the applicant already has a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity to leverage. Further information about interim clearances may be found here.

Step 5: Investigation Service Provider review and processing.

The Investigation Service Provider (ISP) reviews the security clearance package for completeness to open the investigation. If the package is incomplete, the ISP and PSMO-I will coordinate with the FSO to resolve issues to prevent the unacceptable status. If unable to resolve the unacceptable issue the request will be "Terminated by ISP." Once the request is accepted by the ISP, the investigation process begins.

Step 6: DoD CAF adjudication processing.

After an investigation has been completed, a certified Adjudicator reviews the results of the investigation and compares it to established qualifying criteria for eligibility for access to classified national security information. The adjudicator considers the following factors when evaluating an individual's conduct:

  1. The nature, extent and seriousness of the conduct
  2. The circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation
  3. The frequency and recency of the conduct
  4. The individual's age and maturity at the time of the conduct
  5. The extent to which participation is voluntary.
  6. The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other permanent behavioral changes
  7. The motivation for the conduct
  8. The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress; and
  9. The likelihood of continuation or recurrence of the conduct

Each case is judged on its own merits and the final determination is the responsibility of the specific department or agency that adjudicates the clearance eligibility. Any doubt regarding whether access to classified information is clearly consistent with national security must be resolved in favor of national security.

Step 6.a: Investigations referred to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA)

While the majority of applicants are granted a clearance, complicating factors may delay a decision or result in a denial or revocation of a security clearance. For industry, if the applicant's request is not clearly consistent with national security interests, the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoD CAF) forwards the case to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), in the Defense Legal Services Agency, to determine whether it is clearly consistent with the national interest to grant or continue a security clearance for the applicant. The additional directives that provide information on this process are Executive Order 10865, "Safeguarding Classified Information Within Industry" and the Defense Industrial Personnel Security Clearance Review Program, DoD Directive 5220.6.

Step 6.b: Defense Intelligence Agency (SEC-3B)

On 10 Feb 2016 The Deputy Secretary of Defense (DEPSECDEF) signed an Action Memo that directed the transfer of DoD SCI Adjudicative mission from DICAF to the DoD CAF. The agreed IOC date for this transfer was 1 Jul 2016. For more information about this transfer please contact: Located at the DoDCAF, DIA adjudicates and reciprocates access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance eligibility and manages industry Due Process procedures and the Periodic Reinvestigation Program for DIA industry personnel. DIA Polygraph Security Notice.

DIA SEC 3B Case Managers and Adjudicators review and evaluate background investigations, counterintelligence reports, criminal investigations, credit checks, security reports, and other types of information relevant to determine a contractor’s eligibility for national security clearance and/or access to SCI.

For frequently asked questions, click here.

Contact DIA SEC-3B at