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What Is Us Government Security Clearance

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What Are U.S. Security Clearances?

Before you apply for a security clearance, be sure to review the latest guidelines and updates from the U.S. Department of State so that you have current information about requirements, the process, and approval.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own states laws or the most recent changes to the law.

What Are Background Checks And Security Clearances

If hired for a federal job, you must at least go through a basic background check to make sure youre reliable, trustworthy, and suitable for the job. The background check process starts after you accept a job offer.

The hiring agency will ask you for the necessary personal information to start the background investigation process. The amount of information youll need to give depends on the job.

Applying For A Security Clearance

  • 1Identify the clearance level you need. There are three levels of security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret.XResearch source Identify which one you need.
  • Confidential. You can access material that could cause measurable damage if improperly disclosed. Most military personnel get this clearance.
  • Secret. You can gain access to material that could cause serious damage to national security if it were disclosed improperly.
  • Top secret. You can access to information or material that could cause exceptionally grave damage to the nations security if improperly disclosed.
  • 2Complete the questionnaire. You will need to complete the Personal Security Questionnaire, SF-86, online.XResearch source This form will ask for substantial amounts of information, such as where youve lived and worked for the past 10 years and your relationship with family members. Answer all questions honestly and thoroughly.XTrustworthy SourceUS Department of StateOfficial website of the U.S. Department of StateGo to source
  • Talk to your companys Facility Security Officer for information on accessing the questionnaire.
  • 3Choose your references wisely. The application will request work, school, and personal references. It will also ask for the names of neighbors and landlords. If possible, you should avoid naming family members. Also try not to list someone as a reference more than once.
  • Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:

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    Avoiding Conflicts Of Interest

    Students should be mindful that in every jurisdiction the Rules of Professional Conduct, or other applicable ethical rules, impose the obligation to avoid conflicts of interest. This could arise in a clinic, externship, or internship if you are on the other side from your future employer in a case or transaction. Legal employers are responsible for inquiring about possible conflicts of interest, but you should consider whether your past legal work or ongoing legal work may present a conflict and bring any potential issue to the attention of the agency as soon as it is feasible. It is better to air questions in advance of accepting a position than to encounter problems that can delay your start date or prevent you from being able to work.

    What Is A Special Access Program

    Federal Employee Lawyer

    Special Access Programs are used for particular types of classified information. Each SAP imposes safeguards and access restrictions that go beyond those normally required for information at the same classification level. Some SAPs are so restricted that their very existence is classified information. These are called black programs. SCIs are actually categorized as SAPs as well.

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    Reasons You May Be Denied A Security Clearance

    Besides a dubious background, there are other reasons why you may be denied a security clearance. These reasons include:

    Missing Employment Information: Applicants should include all contracting work , unemployment durations, military service duty locations, and other forms of work. Missing financial information: Include any filed bankruptcy, financial obligations along with relevant account numbers, dates, amounts, and respective financial institutions that youre indebted to. Incomplete References: Whether youre employed or self-employed, you must provide contact details of the people that can verify this. References can be spouses, siblings, or former bosses. Discrepancies in date and place of birth information: Ensure you maintain consistency and accuracy in your date and place of birth submitted throughout the security clearance application process. Use the format of mm/dd/yyyy. Failure to submit release or certification forms: The investigator cannot proceed without a current release form thats signed, which can lead to immediate disqualification.To avoid this predicament, scan and attach the relevant forms in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System . Youll also need to submit the Fair Credit Reporting Disclosure and Authorization form.

    How Can I Be Granted Sensitive Compartmented Information Access

    To be eligible for Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance, you must:

    • Be nominated for an SCI billet
    • Pass a Single Scope Background Investigation
    • Be approved by the appropriate government agency

    SCI includes several categories of compartmented information. Central Adjudication Facilities grant you eligibility for access to SCI. Once your eligibility has been established, you can be granted special access authorization for a specific category of information within SCI.

    SCI access eligibility is divided into three sensitivity levels, with each requiring you to undergo different types of investigations, including:

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

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    What Is Security Clearance

    A security clearance is a tiered status. It is typically granted to employees working federal government agency jobs and private contractors who work with the government. This comprehensive process examines your criminal record, credit history, and other personal details to confirm you are âreliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United Statesâ . Security clearance must be issued before you can begin working.

    Examples of organizations that require higher tiers of clearance include national security agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation . Over four million Americans have national security clearances, with 85 percent of them working with the Department of Defense .

    Us Security Clearance Sponsors

    What is a security clearance? And how could one lose it?

    If youve recently discharged from US military service and possessed any type of security clearance, yours was sponsored by the DoD.

    The exception to this is if you served with the US Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security . If you were issued a clearance while serving with the US Coast Guard, then your clearance was sponsored by DHS.

    Who sponsors security clearances?

    When it comes to private security jobs with the US Government, employers most commonly seek candidates with clearances sponsored by the following agencies:

    Department of Defense Office of Personnel Management Drug Enforcement Agency

    There is an effort within the federal government to standardize and consolidate clearance issuing authorities under OPM however, for the foreseeable future, employers will seek clearances sponsored by the above agencies.

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    Start The Interim Eligibility Period

    The investigation phase might take some time to complete. It depends on the candidate, the number of interviews and information agents need to process, so the average length of time for the investigation phase is around 120 days. Because of this, some agencies might issue an interim security clearance to allow an individual to work in a provisional status until the government issues the full clearance.

    Interim eligibility can apply to any applicant, and it can remain in effect until the investigation phase is over and a candidate receives their full security clearance level.

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    What Is A Contract Security Classification Specification 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 Forms 254 is necessary to maintain an active FCL. The DD Form 254 will determine the level of the FCL granted to the company. A companyâs FCL level must be as high as the highest classification specified in any of its DD Forms 254.

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    How To Get Us Government Security Clearance

    The Concern:

    • An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds.

    Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:

    • A history of not meeting financial obligations
    • Inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts
    • Unexplained affluence
    • Financial problems that are linked to gambling, drug abuse, alcoholism, or other issues of security concern.

    Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

    • The behavior was not recent
    • It was an isolated incident
    • The conditions that resulted in the behavior were largely beyond the persons control
    • The person has received or is receiving counseling for the problem and there are clear indications that the problem is being resolved or is under control
    • The affluence resulted from a legal source and
    • The individual initiated a good-faith effort to repay overdue creditors or otherwise resolve debts.

    Federal Employment Fitness Investigation

    How the Government Grants Security Clearances

    The requirements for a Fitness investigation are exactly the same as a Suitability investigation. The only difference is that Fitness investigations are conducted on new excepted service federal employees and these investigations can involve different adjudicative criteria and procedures than Suitability investigations. These investigations are also conduct on federal contractor personnel being considered for Public Trust positions or PIV cards required by HSPD-12. Within DoD a PIV is called a Common Access Card .

    Facility Security Clearances

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    Who Grants Security Clearances

    Varying United States government agencies grant security clearances, most commonly the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, and Central Intelligence Agency. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense issues more than 80% of security clearances.

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    Federal Employment Suitability Investigation

    Suitability investigations are conducted on new âcompetitive serviceâ federal employees, either immediately before or shortly after they are hired. The type of investigation depends on the risk level of the position the employee or employment candidate will occupy. A favorable adjudication for any risk level automatically makes an applicant eligible for âPersonal Identity Verificationâ cards required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 . If the position also requires a national security clearance, a single investigation can be completed that fulfills both suitability and security clearance requirements.

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    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 has provisions for âexcludingâ certain KMP , if they are unable to obtain a clearance. Under this provision there must be a resolution by the companyâs executive body 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.

    Security Clearance Levels For Military Members

    eform US security clearance policies?

    Like civilian federal employees, the security clearance granted will be on a level with the need of the job or the mission. The three security clearance levels military people may be approved to hold are, from lowest to highest:

    • Confidential
    • Top Secret

    Yes, these are identical to the civilian employee clearances. The major difference in getting a military clearance level is that fingerprints and other materials may have already been gathered as part of the military enlistment process some procedures for military members may be a bit more streamlined than for a brand new federal hire in a civilian position.

    Like civilian employees, some military members with Secret or Top Secret clearances may also be recommended for Special Access Programs, which are described as enforced need-to-know levels of clearance.

    Not all who carry Secret or Top Secret clearances are read into SAP, but all who are admitted to Special Access Programs will have a Secret clearance or above. In some cases employees without a clearance may be included after undergoing required background checks and other procedures, but this process is up to the hiring agency.

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    Department Of Energy Authorizations

    The DOE issues âLâ and âQâ access authorizations. L authorization corresponds to confidential and secret clearance levels. Q authorization compares to top secret clearance.

    Executive Order 13526 identified classification categories for information. These categories help determine which documents might be confidential, secret, or top secret.

    Will My Clearance Be Granted Faster Because I Previously Held A Security Clearance

    No. A new application will need to be submitted and a completely new investigation will need to be conducted and adjudicated. If unfavorable information in a case was fully covered, and favorably adjudicated during the prior clearance processing, it could speed up the adjudication phase of a new clearance request.

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    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 in a position that requires a clearance. As an exception, a candidate for employment may be sponsored 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.

    Agencies And Levels Of Security Clearance

    What is a secret security clearance in the US military?

    Security clearances are essentially issued in two different categories. The first is a Personnel Security Clearances and the second is a Facility Security Clearance . From these two types of security clearances, an individual or company can be granted one of three levels of clearance. The three levels of clearance are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. Some agencies use their own classification systems, but generally speaking, they correspond with one of these three levels of classification. A security clearance can be issued by a number of U.S. agencies but are most often issued by the Department of Defense , the Department of Homeland Security , the Department of Energy , the Department of Justice , and the Central Intelligence Agency . Nearly 80% of all clearances are issued by DoD. Outlined below are a few of the terms mentioned above that are helpful to understand when discussing federal security clearances.

    Confidential : Applies to information that could cause damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources.

    Secret : Applies to information that could cause serious damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources.

    Top Secret : Applies to information that could cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources.

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    Different Levels Of Security Clearance

    A United States government security clearance determines what types of classified information that an applicant can see. Nearly 80% of the security clearances are for the Department of Defense with other notable agencies including

    A certain level of security clearance must be established to hold key government positions. There are two types of security clearances:

  • Personnel Security Clearance
  • There are three main security clearance categories:

  • Confidential
  • Top Secret
  • The DoE has its own designations of L and Q

    Generally, the Top Secret clearance is good for five years, Secret is good for ten years and Confidential is good for fifteen years. All are subject to Periodic Reinvestigation reviews to keep them active. The clearance is job-specific and terminated or expired when the employee leaves the position.

    Do All Military Members Have Security Clearance

    A very important aspect of many federal service jobs within all five branches of military is getting a security clearance. Members of the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, and Navy may need to obtain security clearances at some point during their time in the military.

    Usually the need to obtain new security clearance is determined by the position or MOS. There are certain positions within the military that require security clearance in order to be able to access the information required to do that position. Once it is determined that a military personnel member requires a security clearance because of assignment or job, they are required to complete a Security Clearance Background Investigation Questionnaire.

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    How Do I Apply For Security Clearance

    A security clearance application must be initiated by a prospective employer . Generally, during the application process for a new government job, the applicant must also fill out the Form SF-86Questionnaire for National Security Positions. This will require filling in the following information: name, address, residence, education, employment, family, friends, financial and foreign travel.

    There may be interviews of your personal references and an Enhanced Subject Interview for top clearances. The National Agency Check looks into the applicants credit and criminal background. The government will also consider drug abuse and misuse of computers. The Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office will review the applications.

    The Process For Obtaining A Security Clearance

    Government security clearances backlogged

    Before the process for obtaining a security clearance can even begin there must exist a verifiable need for the individual seeking the clearance to hold one. While companies with contracts or grants with the federal government may require employees to have a security clearance, no company without a contract with the federal government can independently seek a security clearance.

    Only people employed by a federal agency or federal contractor can obtain a security clearance.

    The scope of the background investigation needed depends on the positions requirements as well as the level of security clearance needed for the position. This process can take several months or up to a year depending on the backlog, need for more information, depth of the investigation process and other factors.

    Executive Order 10450 states in part, The scope of the investigation shall be determined according to the degree of adverse effect the occupant of the position sought to be filled could bring about, by virtue of the nature of the position, on the national security, but in no event shall the investigation include less than a national agency check , and written inquiries to appropriate local law-enforcement agencies, former employers and supervisors, references, and schools attended by the person under investigation.

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