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

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 signature forms, collectively called the security clearance package. 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)

  • The FSO should verify the submitted release is the release generated by the e-QIP system for the specific request number that is reflected on the release form. Failure to use the appropriate form will result in OPM rejecting the request.
  • Certification and Release forms may be scanned and attached to the investigation request in JPAS. Any corrections or overwrites must be completed using a new signature form or by drawing a single line through the error and initialing the correction.

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 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 for other than 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.
  • 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. As part of the review, PSMO-I checks the files and systems available to them to determine if the applicant already has a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity. If so, PSMO-I can potentially use that clearance eligibility or request a copy of the investigation to support issuing clearance eligibility in lieu of requesting a new investigation. Concurrent with review of the security clearance package, PSMO-I will determine if the individual is eligible for an interim clearance. In most cases, clearance applicants may be put to work with an interim clearance. Further information about interim clearances may be found here.

Step 5: Investigation Service Provider review and processing.

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.

Average Investigation timelines (days) for FY15 are as follows:
SSBI for TS: 190
T3 for Secret: 90

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.