Federal facility security clearances

This section provides answers to the most common facility security questions.

How does a company get a facility clearance (FCL)?

A company must be sponsored for an FCL by a federal agency or a cleared contractor. A company cannot sponsor itself for an FCL. The cleared contract or federal agency requests the FCL when a definite, classified procurement need has been established.

How does a cleared contractor sponsor a company for a FCL?

Sponsorship is in the form of a letter to the Facility Clearance Branch of the Defense Security Service, requesting that a particular company be processed. The letter provides the prospective company’s name address, phone number and point of contact. It should also provide the contract number for the classified procurement, a copy of the Contract Security Classification Specification, facility clearance level needed and the requestor point of contact and phone number.

What is a DoD Security Agreement (DD Form 441)? 

A DD Form 441 is required for an FCL. It is an agreement between the Government and the contractor. The the Government agrees to issue the FCL and inform the contractor of the security classification of information to which the contractor will have access, and the contractor agrees to abide by the security requirements set forth in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM).

What is a Contract Security Classification Specification (DD Form 254), and how does it relate to a FCL?

A DD Form 254 is issued when classified work is contracted to a facility. It provides the security classification and safeguarding requirements to be applied to information. The federal agency or cleared contractor issues the 254 to the contracted facility and justifies the need for a FCL. One or more active DD Form 254 is necessary to maintain an active FCL. The DD Form 254 will determine the level of the FCL granted to the company. A company’s FCL level must be as high as the highest classification specified in any of its DD Forms 254.

What is a DSS Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep.)?

Once sponsored for a FCL, contractors are assigned an IS Rep (a DSS employee). The IS Rep’s job is to assist the contractor in following the requirements of the NISPOM the entire time it is a NISP participant.

What is a DSS inspection/review?

A DSS review is a periodic visit to the contractor facility by a DSS IS Rep. The review is conducted to assist the contractor in following the requirements of the NISPOM and ensure that safeguards employed by the contractor are adequate for the protection of classified information. The IS Rep determines the frequency of such formal reviews, but reviews are normally conducted annually.

Who has to be cleared in connection with a FCL?

A DSS Industrial Security Representative (IS Rep) with the help of the company’s POC will determine which individuals must be cleared in connection with the FCL. Ordinarily, those who have control over the company (e.g., owners, officers, directors, and executive personnel) and the Facility Security Officer (FSO) must be cleared. Those individuals cleared in connection with a FCL are called Key Management Personnel (KMP).

What happens if a “controlling” officer cannot be cleared in connection with the FCL?

The facility is not eligible for a FCL. The National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) has provisions for “excluding” certain KMP (but not the senior management official or FSO), if they are unable to obtain a clearance. Under this provision there must be a resolution by the company’s executive body (e.g., Board of Directors) that the named individual will not be provided any classified information, can be effectively excluded from access to all classified information, and is not in a position to adversely affect the performance of the classified contract. Alternatively, the officer can officially step down from his or her position as an officer/director and relinquish control of the facility.

What is a Facility Security Officer (FSO)?

The FSO is a KMP who has responsibility over the facility’s security program. During the time a facility is cleared, the FSO is the main POC for the DSS IS Rep.

Does the FSO have to have a personnel clearance? What level?

Yes. The FSO must have a clearance at the same level as the FCL.

How does a company get a Top Secret FCL?

A company must be sponsored for a Top Secret FCL, even if it already has a lower level FCL. The cleared contractor or federal agency must follow the same sponsorship procedures, and personnel clearances for all KMPs must be upgraded as well.

How much does it cost to get a FCL?

At this time, there is no direct charge for a FCL issued by the Defense Security Service.

What is FOCI (Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence)?

A contractor is determined as having FOCI when under such a level of foreign control or influence that it cannot be cleared without a negation method. DSS assists the contractor in selecting a negation method; however, some levels of FOCI cannot be negated and the contractor is determined ineligible for an FCL.

What are SCIFs and SAPFs?

A SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) and a SAPF (Special Access Program Facility) are specially constructed facilities to safeguard SCI and SAP information.

Who inspects SCIFs and SAPFs?

DSS is responsible for inspections of these facilities, unless they have been specifically “carved out” of the NISP by the Government customer. In such cases the Government customer who approved the facility and owns the information inspects the facility.

– compiled by ClearanceJobs.com.


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