Federal personnel security clearances

A comprehensive set of questions and answers related to US Government personnel security clearances, including those administered under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP).

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance is a determination by the United States Government that a person or company is eligible for access to classified information. The term “eligibility for access” means the same thing as security clearance and appears in some Government record systems. There are two types of clearances: Personnel Security Clearances (PCLs) and Facility Security Clearances (FCLs).

What are the security clearance levels?

Security clearances can be issued by many United States Government agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy (DoE), the Department of Justice, and the Central Intelligence Agency. DoD, which issues more than 80% of all clearances, and most other agencies have three levels of security clearances:

  • Confidential
  • Secret
  • Top Secret

DoE primarily issues “L,” and “Q” Access Authorizations, which are roughly equivalent to Secret and Top Secret clearances, respectively.

What was DISCO and DOHA?

The Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) was part of the Defense Security Service (DSS), an agency of the Department of Defense (DoD). DISCO processed and adjudicated Personnel Security Clearances (PCL) and Facility Security Clearances (FCL) for defense contractor personnel and defense contractor facilities.

The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) worked with DISCO and adjudicated the most problematic DISCO cases. Previously DISCO/DOHA was one of nine Central Adjudication Facilities (CAFs) within DoD.

What is DoDCAF?

In summer 2011 all nine DoD Central Adjudication Facilities relocated to a new building on Fort Meade, Md. Between August 2012 and January 2013 six of these CAFs (Army CCF, DoNCAF, AFCAF, JCSCAF, WHSCAF, and DISCO/DOHA consolidated into one DoDCAF. The new CAF will have full operational capability by September 2013, including responsibility for Employment Suitability and HSPD-12 credentialing determinations. There has been no decision regarding consolidation of the remaining three CAFs (NSA, DIA, and NGA). They will continue to remain separate entities while the matter is being studied.

What type of information is requested on a security clearance application?

The application form, Standard Form 86—SF86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions), requires personal identifying data, as well as information regarding citizenship, residence, education, and employment history; family and associates; and foreign connections/travel. Additionally, it asks for information about criminal records, illegal drug involvement, financial delinquencies, mental health counseling, alcohol related incidents and counseling, military service, prior clearances and investigations, civil court actions, misuse of computer systems, and subversive activities. The number of years of information required on the form varies from question to question—many require 7 years, some require 10 years, and others are not limited to any period of time.

How long does a clearance remain in effect?

Generally as long as cleared individuals remain employed by a cleared contractor or government agency and are reasonably expected to require access to classified information, their personnel security clearance will remain in effect, provided they comply with Periodic Reinvestigation requirements.

When is a clearance terminated?

A clearance is terminated when a person permanently leaves a position for which the clearance was granted. Cleared individuals who no longer require access to classified information, but who remain continuously employed by the same cleared contractor (or government agency) and do not anticipate future access can have their clearances administratively downgraded or withdrawn until such time that they require access again, provided their security clearance investigation has not expired. Under such circumstances the clearance can be administratively restored.

What do the terms “active,” “current,” and “expired” mean?

People either have a clearance or they don’t have a clearance. The Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) on which the clearance is based can be either “current” or “expired.” PSIs are current if they are not more than five years old for a Top Secret clearance, 10 years old for a Secret clearance, or 15 years old for a Confidential clearance. Generally, if the PSI is out-of-date (expired) or there has been a break-in-service of two years or more, a person must be nominated for a new clearance, complete a new application, and undergo a new PSI.

People commonly use the terms “active,” “current,” and “expired” to mean:

  • Active—a clearance that has not been terminated
  • Current—a terminated clearance that is still eligible for reinstatement
  • Expired—a terminated clearance that is no longer eligible for reinstatement

Can a clearance be reinstated after it has been terminated?

Yes. If a person previously had a clearance and the investigation is still current, the clearance can be reinstated by the agency that originally granted the clearance or it can be accepted and reciprocally granted by a different agency, provided there hasn’t been a break-in-service of two years or more. This can be done without the individual submitting a new SF86; however, for clearances involving special access authorizations a new SF86 can be required if there has been a break-in-access of more than 60 days or if a polygraph examination is required.

What is an interim security clearance?

An interim clearance (also known as “interim eligibility”) is based on the completion of minimum investigative requirements and granted on a temporary basis, pending the completion of the full investigative requirements for the final clearance. Interim Secret clearances can be granted in a few days once the clearance granting authority receives a properly completed SF86. Interim Top Secret clearances take one or two months longer.

Interim clearances can be “declined,” if unfavorable information is listed on the SF86. All industrial applicants (defense contractor personnel) are considered for interim clearances. Interim clearances can be withdrawn at any time significant unfavorable information is developed during the investigation. It is not possible to appeal the declination or withdrawal of an interim clearance, and the CAF is not required to provide a reason for the declination/withdrawal. Effective 1 August 2012 the term “declined” was replaced by the term “Eligibility Pending,” which has the same effect as the declination of an interim clearance.

With some exceptions an interim clearance permits a person to have access to classified material at all levels of classification up to the level of the interim clearance granted. Interim Secret clearances are not sufficient for access to special categories of classified information, such as COMSEC, Restricted Data, and NATO. Interim Top Secret clearances are sufficient for access to most Top Secret information and to COMSEC, NATO, and Restricted Data at the Secret and Confidential levels only.

Getting a Clearance

Can I obtain a security clearance on my own?

No. You must be sponsored by a cleared contractor or a Government agency. To be sponsored you must be employed (or hired as a consultant) in a position that requires a clearance. As an exception, a candidate for employment may be submitted for a clearance if the employer has made an offer of employment and the candidate has accepted the offer. Both the offer and acceptance must be in writing. The offer of employment from a cleared contractor must indicate that employment will begin within 30 days of receiving the clearance.

Can a Naturalized Citizen get a Personnel Clearance?

Yes. The source of US citizenship does not make a difference for security clearance eligibility.

Can non-US citizens obtain security clearances?

No. Non-US citizens cannot obtain a security clearance; however, they may be granted a Limited Access Authorization (LAA). LAAs are grant in those rare circumstances where the non-US citizen possesses unique or unusual skill or expertise that is urgently needed to support a specific US Government requirement involving access to specified classified information (no higher than Secret), and a cleared or clearable US citizen is not readily available.

Personnel Security Clearances (PCL)

Who issues clearances?

The Department of Defense Central Clearance Facility (DoDCAF) at Fort Meade, Md. issues Personnel Clearances (PCL) for most DoD civilians, military personnel, and contractor personnel. Previously the DISCO issued clearances to most defense contractor personnel; however, DISCO was consolidated into DoDCAF in October 2012. Other DoD agencies that issue clearances are DIA, NGA, and NSA. Other Executive Branch departments that issue PCLs include the departments of Energy, State, Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, Labor, Commerce, Treasury, Justice, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs. Many component agencies of these departments, as well as independent agencies (i.e. CIA, OPM, EPA, GAO, FCC, USITC, etc.), issue clearances.

Clearance determinations are based on completed personnel security investigations (PSI) using the “Adjudi-cative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

How much does it cost to get a PCL?

At this time, there is no direct charge for a PCL issued by DoD and most other federal agencies.

What is a collateral clearance?

The term “collateral clearance” is used to describe a security clearance without any special access authorizations.

What is a “special access authorization?”

Access to classified defense information is based on an appropriate level of security clearance (Confidential, Secret or Top Secret) and a “need-to-know.” Need-to-know can be either a formal or an informal determination. All classified defense information exists within one of these two “need-to-know” domains—formal or informal. Information that exists within the domain of informal need-to-know determinations is referred to as “collateral classified” information. Information that requires a formal need-to-know determination (also known as a special access authorization) exists within Special Access Programs (SAP), including Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and Restricted Data (RD).

Acronyms such as ATOMAL, CNWDI, COMSEC, COSMIC, CRYPTO, NOFORN, ORCON, SAP, SCI, RD, SIOP-ESI, SPECAT, SIOP-ESI, etc., are not clearances. They are categories of classified information, some of which have extra need-to-know restrictions or require special access authorizations. For example, COSMIC stands for “Control of Secret Material in an International Command.” COSMIC Top Secret is the term used for NATO Top Secret Information. There are many such markings (caveats) stamped or printed on classified material, but most are only acronyms denoting special administrative handling procedures.

How can I be granted Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access?

Since SCI encompasses several categories of compartmented information, CAFs grant eligibility for access to SCI. In order to be considered for SCI eligibility, a cleared individual must first be nominated for an SCI billet and approved by the government agency that controls the information. Once this eligibility has been established, a person can be granted a special access authorization for a specific category of information within SCI. SCI access eligibility is divided into three sensitivity levels and each has a different investigative requirement:

  • SSBI without polygraph
  • SSBI with Counterintelligence Scope polygraph
  • SSBI with Full Scope polygraph

What is a Special Access Program (SAP)?

A SAP is defined as: “a program established for a specific class of classified information that imposes safeguarding and access requirements that exceed those normally required for information at the same classification level.” Technically, SCI is a SAP. Some SAPs are referred to as “black” programs, the very existence of which can be classified.

Can you get an interim eligibility for access for SCI/SAP?

Interim access eligibility for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and Special Access Programs (SAP) are granted under very limited circumstances.

Clearance Process

What are the steps to getting a Personnel Clearance (PCL)?

For DoD clearances a cleared contractor or Government agency identifies an employee with a need to have access to classified information. Once identified, the contractor’s Facility Security Officer (FSO) or the Government agency’s Security Officer (SO) submits an investigation request through the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) and ensures that the employee completes a clearance application in the Electronic

Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP). The FSO or SO then reviews, approves, and forwards the completed e-QIP to the DoDCAF for their approval, issuance of an interim clearance, and release to Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM conducts an investigation and sends the results of the investigation to DoDCAF. DoDCAF either grants a clearance or issues a Letter of Intent to deny clearance. Clearances for other federal agencies are processed in essentially the same manner, but can involve a different Investigation Service Provider (ISP).

How are security clearance investigations carried out?

A National Agency Check (NAC), police record checks, and credit check are components of all clearance investigations. When possible these are done centrally by an Investigation Service Provider (ISP), like OPM.

Some police record checks must be done locally by field investigators. For investigations requiring other record checks, reference interviews, and/or a Subject Interview, tasking is sent from the ISP simultaneously to field investigators (either federal agents or contract investigators) in all locations involved. If the investigation develops information that requires further action in another location, tasking is sent from the investigator that developed the information to another field office. Investigative reports are electronically submitted as the work is completed. When all reports have been received at the ISP, the case is reviewed for completeness, and then forwarded to the appropriate Central Adjudication Facility (CAF).

How long does it take to process a security clearance?

In April 2012 DISCO reported average end-to-end processing time of 99 days for the fastest 90% of defense contractor Top Secret clearances and 52 days for Secret clearances. With some exceptions most federal agencies are completing the fastest 90% of all initial clearances (Secret and Top Secret) close to the average of 60 days as required by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA). This average for the fastest 90% can include cases that take up to about 180 days. The remaining 10% can take from 6 months to over a year.

Will my clearance be granted faster because I had a clearance three years ago?

No. A new application with need to be submitted and a completely new investigation will need to be conducted and adjudicated.

Will my clearance be granted faster, if I have immediate family members who have clearances?


Why does it take so long to get a clearance?

Compared to a few years ago, the vast majority of clearances are now being completed much faster than they previously were, but some clearances continue to take a long time. For these cases part of the answer involves the applicant and requires a better understanding of the process. There are three phases to clearance processing: 1) application initiation, 2) investigation, and 3) adjudication. In the past most clearance delays occurred during the investigation phase. Due primarily to a significant increase in the number of investigators, the average time for investigations has been significantly reduced. Today most of the delays in getting a clearance occur in the application initiation phase and the adjudication phase. The problems that cause these delays are:

  • The applicant is not available for a Subject Interview
  • Missing or inaccurate data on security clearance application forms
  • Problems involving fingerprint submission
  • Serious security/suitability issues
  • “Queuing time”

Problem #1 occurs during the investigation phase and is usually due to the applicant being out of the country. If the applicant is in a war zone, the Subject Interview is usually conducted when the applicant returns to the United States. There can also be substantial delays when an applicant is in a location, such as Germany, Japan, Great Britain, or South Korea.

Problems #2 and #3 occur primarily at the application initiation phase and can result in an application being rejected by the CAF or ISP and returned to the requestor. About 10% to 12% of all clearance applications are rejected. This can result in delays of 30 to 60 days. Reviews of applications at the CAF and at the ISP before an investigation is opened can only discover obvious errors and omissions. These reviews do not discover wrong addresses, telephone numbers and dates, nor do they discover omitted foreign travel, relatives, residences, employment or education. These errors and omissions are only discovered during the investigation phase where the case can also be delayed.

Problems #4 and #5 occur primarily at the adjudication phase and can result in much longer delays. Serious issues may require additional information or investigation. When a CAF requests additional information or investigations, it can delay a case for months. A certain amount of queuing time is necessary for efficient operations, but when there is a backlog of cases with major issues, queuing time becomes excessive.

What can I do to speed up the process of getting a clearance?

  1. Download a printable copy of the application form (Standard Form 86—SF86) from the OPM website. Complete the printed copy of the SF86, before attempting to complete the electronic (e-QIP) version online. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
  2. Provide complete and accurate information. Too often applicants fail to list short-term employment, residence, education, and other seemingly unimportant information. When an investigation turns up missing or discrepant information, it adds extra time to the investigation. Among other things, failure to list the organization that is sponsoring your clearance as you current employer will cause your application to be rejected.
  3. Postal Zip Codes are critical. A wrong Zip Code can result in part of your investigation being sent to the wrong investigative office, and the case could languish for days before the error is noticed. Get Zip Codes at https://www.usps.com/zip4/.
  4. Get a free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com and review it before completing an SF86. Something you were unaware of may appear on the report and cause delays.
  5. When entering the “Name of Person Who Knew You” in the Residence Section of the SF86, try to list neighbors. Avoid listing relatives in any section of the SF86, except Section 17—Marital Status and Section 18—Relatives.
  6. Don’t indicate dual citizenship just because you were born in a foreign country, unless you are certain you have dual citizenship. Go to www.opm.gov/extra/investigate/IS-01.pdf and check the citizenship laws of the foreign county where you were born. If you have dual citizenship, you should indicate in the SF86 your willingness to renounce foreign citizenship.
  7. If you have a foreign passport due to dual citizenship, arrange with the security office processing your clearance to either surrender or destroy the passport. Indicate in the “Optional Comments” field of the e-QIP version of the SF86 that you have either surrendered the passport to the appropriate security officer or destroyed it in his/her presence. Obtain a written receipt or a statement from the security officer regarding the disposition of your foreign passport. Do not contact any foreign official regarding the foreign passport or citizenship, unless you are instructed to do so by a representative of the U.S. Government.
  8. If you had mental health or substance abuse counseling in the past 7 years, contact the facility where the counseling occurred and determine if they will accept a standard government forms for release of medical information. If not, get a blank copy of their release and take it with you when you are interviewed by an investigator.
  9. If you left a job under less than favorable circumstances, explain the situation in the “Optional Comments” field of section of Section 22 of your e-QIP, and give the name and/or position of the person who terminated you or asked you to quit.
  10. Couch any unfavorable security and suitability information in terms directly applicable to the mitigating conditions listed in the Adjudicative Guidelines. The most recent version of the “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information” was issued on December 29, 2005 and implemented in 2006. There are 13 guidelines covering such things as alcohol consumption, drug involvement, financial considerations, criminal conduct, etc. Each provides examples of potential disqualifying conditions and mitigating conditions.

Who should I list as references on my clearance application?

There are 4 sections of the clearance application (“Where You Have Lived,” “Where You Went To School,” “Your Employment Activities,” and “People Who Know You Well”) that require names and contact information for people who can be interviewed as references. Unless there is no other choice, do not list any relatives in these sections. For your residences you should list current and former neighbors. For employment you should list current and former supervisors. If you believe the investigator will have trouble locating a former supervisor, use the “Optional Comments” field and add contact information for a former coworker or second tier supervisor. For schools you should list former classmates or faculty members who will remember you.

For “People Who Know You Well” try to list at least one person who has known you for the past seven years and who knows who your other friends are. Try not to list the same person more than once on your clearance application.

Will I be interviewed by an investigator?

If you are being investigated for a Top Secret clearance or for a Secret clearance that requires access to a designated Special Access Program (SAP), an Enhanced Subject Interview (ESI) is a regular part of the investigation. ESIs can also be required in an investigation for a Confidential or Secret clearance, if a suitability/security issue is listed on your clearance application or surfaces during the investigation. A

Special Interview (SPIN) can be required in any investigation, if a previously undisclosed suitability/security issue surfaces during an investigation after an ESI was conducted.

What will I be asked during a security clearance interview?

During a ESI, the investigator will cover every item on your clearance application and have you confirm the accuracy and completeness of the information. You will be asked about a few matters that are not on your application, such as the handling of protected information, susceptibility to blackmail, and sexual misconduct. You will be asked to provide details regarding any potential security/suitability issues.

During a SPIN, the investigator will only cover the security/suitability issue(s) that triggered the SPIN. The purpose of the SPIN is to afford the applicant the opportunity to refute or to confirm and provide details regarding the issue(s).

Should I reveal unfavorable information about myself on the clearance application?

You must answer all questions on the clearance application form truthfully and completely, but you do not have to volunteer unfavorable information that is not related to any of the questions on the form. Many clearance denials for financial problems, drugs, alcohol, and criminal conduct also involve providing false information during the clearance process. Often the act of providing false information is more serious than the issues people try to hide. Passage of time is a major mitigating factor for all issues involving misconduct. Willfully providing false information on a clearance application or during a Subject Interview is a serious criminal offense and is very difficult to mitigate because of the recency of the offense.

What are the most common errors requiring correction before the investigation is opened?

  1. Fingerprints not received with required timeframe of 14 days
  2. Missing information on employment
  3. Missing information on references (education, employment, and/or character references)
  4. Illegible Certification/Release forms
  5. Certification/Release forms not meeting date requirements
  6. Missing information on relatives
  7. Missing Selective Service registration information
  8. Incorrect date or place of birth (i.e. information on fingerprint card and SF86 don’t match)
  9. Missing financial information
  10. Missing information on cohabitant
  11. Missing information on spouse
  12. Incorrect Certification/Release form number
  13. Incorrect social security number

How can I find out the status of my clearance application?

For DoD clearances only your security officer may inquire about the status of your security clearance application. This can be done by checking the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) and/or the Security and Investigations Index (SII) or by telephoning the DoD Security Service Center at 888-282-7682.

How will I be informed when I am granted a clearance?

Normally you will be contacted by your security office, receive a security briefing, and required to sign a “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” prior to be granted access to classified information.

What types of things can prevent someone from receiving a security clearance?

With rare exceptions the following will result in a clearance denial:

  • Criminal conviction resulting in incarceration for a period of one year or more
  • Current unlawful use of or addiction to a controlled substance
  • Determined to be mentally incompetent by a mental health professional approved by DoD
  • Discharge or dismissal from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
  • Unwillingness to surrender a foreign passport

Otherwise, the most common reasons for clearance denial are serious repeated financial problems, intentional false statements in connection with a clearance investigation, recent illegal drug involvement, repeated alcohol abuse, and a pattern of criminal conduct or rule violation. For many people these issues can be mitigated, if presented properly during a security interview or in response to a Letter of Intent to deny clearance.

The 2005 “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information” list various conditions under 13 separate guidelines that could result in clearance denial.

What happens when a security clearance is denied?

When a case contains significant unmitigated derogatory information, the adjudicator issues a “Letter of Intent” (LOI) to deny a clearance. The LOI is a preliminary, tentative decision and will contain a “Statement of Reasons” (SOR) detailing the issues that are the basis of the decision. The LOI contains instructions on how to request a copy of the investigative file on which the decision to issue the LOI was based.

Industrial applicants (federal contractor personnel) can submit a written rebuttal to the SOR and request a hearing. If the applicant does not rebut the SOR, DoDCAF will deny the clearance. If the applicant rebuts the SOR without requesting a hearing, DoDCAF sends the applicant a File of Relevant Material (FORM) that will be presented to an Administrative Judge (AJ) for a clearance decision based on the written record. The applicant can submit a written response to the FORM, which will also be presented to the AJ. If the applicant requests a hearing, the applicant (with or without an attorney or personal representative) may present witnesses and other evidence at the hearing. The applicant may also cross-examine witnesses and challenge evidence presented by the DoDCAF Department Counsel (an attorney representing DoD).

The AJ makes a written decision and a copy is sent to the applicant. DoDCAF is then directed to grant or deny the clearance in accordance with the AJ’s decision. If the clearance is denied, the applicant is notified in writing and advised of their right to appeal the decision. It is possible that an adjudicator could grant the clearance after reviewing the applicant’s response to the SOR, thus obviating the need to present the case to an AJ.

DoD civilian employees and military personnel can submit a written rebuttal to the SOR, but they are not entitled to a hearing. If the applicant does not rebut the SOR, DoDCAF will deny the clearance. If they submit a written rebuttal to the SOR, the adjudicator will decide to grant or deny the clearance in light of information submitted in the rebuttal. If a decision is made to deny a clearance, the applicant is notified in writing and advised of their right to appeal the decision.

Can I appeal a clearance denial or revocation?

Any applicant may appeal a clearance denial or revocation to the federal agency’s three-member Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB). PSAB decisions are made by a majority vote. Industrial applicants are limited to submitting a written appeal, but the PSAB will not consider any new evidence. The appeal must be based on procedural error(s) by the AJ. In industrial cases the DoD Department Counsel can appeal the favorable decision of an AJ. The PSAB issues a written decision addressing the material issues raised on appeal and a copy is sent to both parties. The PSAB can affirm, reverse, or remand a case to the original AJ with instructions for further review. If the original decision is reversed or affirmed, the decision of the PSAB is final.

DoD civilian employees and military personnel have the choice of submitting a written appeal with supporting documents directly to their PSAB or requesting a personal appearance before an AJ. In either case new evidence can be submitted. Those who choose to appear before an AJ are permitted to explain their case (with or without an attorney or personal representative), submit supporting documents, and present witnesses, but it is not a hearing and there is usually no opposing counsel. The AJ evaluates all the information and makes a written clearance recommendation to the applicant’s PSAB. The PSAB is not required to follow the recommendation of the AJ. The PSAB notifies the applicant of their final decision and includes reasons for their decision.

Applicants who are denied a clearance with or without an appeal are barred from applying for a security clearance for a period of one year.

What is the EPSQ (Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire)?

The EPSQ was the only electronic security clearance application used within the DoD until July 2005, when it was gradually replaced by e-QIP.

What is e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing)?

E-QIP is an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web-based computer program in which an applicant enters the same information as required on the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” (Standard Form 86—SF86). E-QIP became available in July 2005 and slowly replaced the EPSQ. E-QIP now accounts for over 95% of all clearance applications.

What is JPAS (Joint Personnel Adjudication System)?

JPAS is the official personnel security clearance database management system for DoD, including National Industrial Security Program (NISP) cleared contractors. This system is used for all types of personnel clearance actions, including initiating requests for clearance investigations. JPAS is managed by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). For more information, visit the DMDC website.

How can I get a copy of my clearance investigation?

First you must determine who conducted your investigation. The Defense Security Service (DSS) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have conducted more than 90% of all clearance investigations over the past 35 years. Additionally, due to the transfer of the DoD personnel security investigations function from DSS to OPM on February 20, 2005, any requests for DSS investigations completed after February 20, 2005 should be sent to the OPM. DSS only maintains those personnel security investigations completed by DSS prior to the February 20, 2005 transfer.

For OPM investigations mail or fax a request with your hand written signature to:

FOI/P, OPM-FIPC P.O. Box 618 1137 Branchton Road Boyers, PA 16018-0618 FAX: 724-794-4590

Include the following information in your request:

  • Full name
  • Social Security Numbe
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Current home address (a Post Office Box is not acceptable; the records are sent by certified mail and require your signature)

For DSS investigations mail a written request with your original notarized signature to:

Defense Security Service (DSS) Office of FOIA and Privacy 27130 Telegraph Rd. Quantico, VA 22134

Include the following information in your request:

  • Full current name
  • Any other names you may have used in the past
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • A brief description of the records you are seeking
  • Any other information that you feel may help in searching for records pertaining to you Polygraphs

What are polygraphs?

Polygraphs are instruments that measure physiological responses (respiration, pulse, blood pressure, and galvanic resistance) to stress. Polygraphs are used to help determine an individual’s eligibility for a special assignment or access to specifically designated information protected within SAPs. They are not generally use for collateral security clearances, unless they are necessary to resolve serious credible derogatory information that cannot be resolved through conventional investigative means. Polygraph examinations are conducted as a supplement to, not as a substitute for, other forms of investigation that may be required under the circumstances. Polygraphs exams are only administered by agencies with approved personnel security polygraph programs and these exams are only conducted by government trained and certified examiners.

What are the differences between Counterintelligence, Lifestyle, and Full Scope Polygraphs?

Within the context of security clearances, the purpose of a polygraph exam is to assist in determining whether or not an applicant can be trusted with sensitive information. Within DoD, polygraph screening exams used to determine initial eligibility for special assignment or special access are limited to two types of polygraph exams, and either one or both exams may be administered.

A Counterintelligence Polygraph is the most common type of polygraph exam. A Counterintelligence Polygraph asks the candidate questions limited to those necessary to determine whether the examinee ever had any involvement with or knowledge of:

  • Espionage
  • Sabotage
  • Terrorist Activities
  • Deliberate damage of U.S. Government Information Systems
  • Intentional compromise of U.S. Government Classified Information
  • Secret contact with a foreign national or representative

A Lifestyle Polygraph asks the candidate questions concerning their personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior. Questions asked might concern drug and alcohol use, sexual misconduct, mental health, family relationships, compulsive or addictive behavior, and more. A Lifestyle Polygraph can also attempt to look for issues in a person’s private life for which he or she might be susceptible to blackmail or coercion. DoD Lifestyle Polygraph exam questions cover the following topics.

  • Involvement in a serious crime
  • Personal involvement with illegal drugs during the last seven years
  • Deliberate falsification of the security forms

A Full Scope Polygraph exam is a combination of both the Counterintelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs.

Types of Investigations

NACLC (National Agency Check with Local Agency Checks and Credit Check)

An NACLC is the type of investigation required for a Secret or Confidential clearance for military and contractor personnel. It includes a credit bureau report and a review of records held by federal agencies and by local criminal justice agencies. It generally does not require an interview with an investigator. The investigation routinely covers no more than the past seven years of a person’s life or a shorter period if the applicant is less than 25 years old.

ANACI (Access National Agency Check with Inquiries)

An ANACI is an investigation required for a Secret or Confidential clearance for new federal employees. It is a combination of the National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) used for federal employment suitability and the NACLC. It includes all the components of an NACLC plus written inquires to past and present employers, schools, and references covering the past 5 years.

SSBI (Single Scope Background Investigation)

An SSBI is a more detailed investigation than the NACLC and is required for a Top Secret clearance, for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access, and for designated Special Access Programs (SAP) at the Secret level. It includes an NACLC, an Enhanced Subject Interview (ESI), interviews of former spouses; interviews of character, employment, neighborhood, and educational references; reviews of residence, employment, and academic records. The investigation routinely covers no more than the past 10 years of a person’s life or a shorter period if the applicant is less than 28 years old.

SSBI-PR (Single Scope Background Investigation—Periodic Reinvestigation)

An SSBI-PR includes an NACLC, ESI, references interviews, and record reviews, covering at least the past five years.

PPR (Phased Periodic Reinvestigation)

In September 2005 OPM made the PPR available as a less comprehensive and less expensive alternative to the SSBI-PR. The investigation includes an NACLC, ESI, and limited reference interviews and record reviews. PPRs may not be requested when certain questions on the clearance application contain responses indicating a possible security or suitability issue.

Interval of Periodic Reinvestigations

People with security clearances must be routinely reinvestigated at set intervals based on the level of clearance they possess. A PR is done to ensure that cleared personnel are still suitable for access to classified information. The type of reinvestigation and frequency required depend on the level of clearance:

  • Top Secret requires an SSBI-PR or PPR every 5 years
  • Secret requires an NACLC every 10 years
  • Confidential requires an NACLC every 15 years

In the near future the interval of PRs for Confidential and Secret clearance will change to 5 years. There is a plan to change the PR interval for Top Secret clearances to 1 year by December 2013.

Reimbursable Suitability Investigation (RSI)

The RSI consists of a focused investigation to provide additional specific information to resolve developed issue(s) that fall outside the scope of coverage of other investigative products offered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Trustworthiness Investigation

A trustworthiness investigation is a DoD term used for a background investigation for a person who is nominated for non-critical sensitive or critical sensitive national security position that does not involve access to classified information. Non-critical sensitive positions require the same investigation and reinvestigation required for a Secret clearance and critical sensitive positions require the same investigation and reinvestigation required for a Top Secret clearance.

Suitability Investigation

Suitability investigations are conducted on all new federal employees, either immediately before or shortly after they are hired. They are also conducted on federal contractor personnel being considered for “Public 1.877.386.3323 • www.clearancejobs.com SECURITY CLEARANCE JOBS FOR U.S. CITIZENS Trust” positions or a “Personal Identity Verification” (PIV) card required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). Within DoD a PIV is called a Common Access Card (CAC).

When based on the submission of an SF86 (Questionnaire For National Security Positions) rather than an SF85P (Questionnaire For Public Trust Positions), some suitability investigations are used to determine eligibility for both a Public Trust position and a Secret clearance.

Security Clearance Jobs

Where can I search for jobs that require a security clearance?

Candidates with active clearances can search for jobs that make use of that clearance at ClearanceJobs.com.

If I don’t have a security clearance, where can I find job opportunities that don’t require a clearance?

Candidates without clearances can search for jobs that do not require clearances at other internet-based career sites like:

  • Dice.com (for IT candidates)
  • Rigzone.com (oil & gas professions)
  • HealthCallings.com (healthcare professions)
  • eFinancialCareers.com (finance professions)

– compiled by ClearanceJobs.com.


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