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What Is Us Government Security Clearance

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What Type Of Information Is Requested On A Security Clearance Application

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

The application form, Standard Form 86SF86 , 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, certain types of mental health treatment, 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 questionmany require 7 years, some require 10 years, and others are not limited to any period of time. A PDF version of the SF86 form is available at the OPM website however, most applicants will use the web-based version called e-QIP .

What Determines A Security Clearance Level

For military personnel, two things determine the level of security clearance required: your job and your assignment. Many military jobs require access to classified information, regardless of where you are assigned. In other cases, the job itself may not require a security clearance, but the particular location or unit that the person is assigned to would require giving access to classified information and material.

The Department of Defense operates its security program separate from other government agencies, with its own procedures and standards. A Top Secret Clearance with the Department of Energy, for example, would not necessarily transfer to DoD.

Merely having a certain level of security clearance does not mean you are authorized to view classified information. To have access to classified information, you must possess the necessary two elements: A level of security clearance, at least equal to the classification of the information, and an appropriate “need to know” the information in order to perform your duties.

Just because you have a secret clearance, doesn’t mean you would have access to all secret information in the military. You would need to have a specific reason to know that information before you were granted access.

Types Of Security Clearances

Positions in the federal government are classified in three ways:

  • Non-sensitive positions.
  • Public trust positions.
  • National security positions.
  • Each of these positions requires some form of background investigation. For lower levels of security clearances, these investigations typically rely on automated checks of an applicants history. For a secret clearance in a national security position, the investigation requires agents to interview people who have lived or worked with the applicant at some point in the past seven years, or sometimes farther back.

    The four main types of security clearances for national security positions are: confidential, secret, top secret and sensitive compartmented information.

    ConfidentialThis type of security clearance provides access to information that could cause damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years.

    SecretSame as a confidential clearance but must be reinvestigated every 10 years.

    Top SecretSame as a confidential clearance but must be reinvestigated every five years.

    Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented InformationSCI is an access program that gets added on to the clearance.

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    What Are The Different Levels Of Security Clearances

    Not every clearance holder has access to the same information. Some clearances only grant access to a particular facility or information about a specific project for a government agency. There are levels of secret clearance that dictate what information needs to be known by the clearance holder. Most government agencies have three levels of security clearance. While the unauthorized disclosure of any level of information disclosed could cause damage to national security, the risk of danger becomes more serious the higher the level of clearance:

    • Confidential: In this case, the position typically requires only basic access to facilities, information, or systems, which can be granted through the lowest level of security clearance. The individuals clearance eligibility is re-investigated every 15 years to keep authorization active.
    • Secret: At this middle tier of clearance levels, secret clearances are re-investigated slightly more frequently, every 10 years. As the investigation to grant a clearance becomes more thorough at higher levels, more candidates may be deemed ineligible through the discovery of criminal activity not reported by public record.
    • Top Secret: This type of security clearance is reserved for positions that require access to very sensitive information and systems. Candidates must undergo a background check and field check, Single Scope Background Investigation , and potentially a polygraph test. This clearance is re-investigated every five years.

    How To Speed Up The Process

    Heres how the federal government processes security clearance ...

    The wheels of U.S. bureaucracy grind slow, and there is little you can do once your SF86 application is in process.

    Nevertheless, as the writers of Security Clearance FAQs point out, there a few ways to ensure your application does not get held up:

  • Have all your materials for SF86 ready. That way, when youre asked to complete the electronic version, you wont have to waste any time rounding up records.
  • Be honest and anal retentive about the information you provide. Incomplete, missing or erroneous info accounts for a large proportion of rejected applications. Pay attention to every detail, including zip codes!
  • Request and review your free credit report before submitting SF86. There may be credit issues you are unaware of.
  • NOTE: The government has the option to grant candidates an interim security clearance pending the results of a full BI. This can be withdrawn at any time if authorities discover unfavorable information.

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    Types Of Security Clearance

    There is a hierarchy to security clearance, in which each of the three types indicates the maximum level of classified information that can be accessed.

    • Confidential: This type of security clearance is least restrictive and provides access to information that can cause damage to national security if it is disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years and requires a National Agency Check with Local Agency Check and Credit Check .

    • Secret: Provides access to information that can cause serious damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. Must be reinvestigated every 10 years and requires NACLC and a Credit investigation .

    • Top secret: This type of security clearance is most restrictive and provides access to information that can cause grave damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. Must be reinvestigated every five years. Typically granted after a Single Scope Background Investigation , for data related to counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and other extremely sensitive information .

    Even when an employee does gain clearance, the system operates on a need-to-know basis that is typically determined by officers assigned to the department that pertains to the data. There are two types of classified information that require additional clearance in order to access:

    Notification Regarding The Authorized Public Disclosure Of National Intelligence


    In the event of an authorized disclosure of national intelligence or intelligence related to national security to the persons or entities described in subsection , the government official responsible for authorizing the disclosure shall submit to the congressional intelligence committees on a timely basis a notification of the disclosure if

    at the time of the disclosure

    such intelligence is classified or

    is declassified for the purpose of the disclosure and

    the disclosure will be made by an officer, employee, or contractor of the Executive branch.

    Persons or entities described

    The persons or entities described in this subsection are as follows:

    Media personnel.

    Any person or entity, if the disclosure described in subsection is made with the intent or knowledge that such information will be made publicly available.


    Each notification required under subsection shall

    provide the specific title and authority of the individual authorizing the disclosure

    if applicable, provide the specific title and authority of the individual who authorized the declassification of the intelligence disclosed and

    describe the intelligence disclosed, including the classification of the intelligence prior to its disclosure or declassification and the rationale for making the disclosure.


    The notification requirement in this section does not apply to a disclosure made

    pursuant to any statutory requirement, including to section 552 of title 5

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    Government Agencies That Issue Security Clearances

    • Government security clearances are issued by the:
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • Department of Energy
    • Department of Justice
    • Central Intelligence Agency

    The vast majority of government security clearances are issued by the DoD, which uses the SF-86 application process. An individuals background and fitness for a security clearance will be investigated by the federal governments Office of Personnel Management.

    • They will be looking into matters including the applicants:
    • Personal identifying data
    • Foreign travel, foreign personal connections
    • Arrests on the local, state, and federal level
    • Financial delinquencies
    • History of any subversive activity
    • Prior government security clearances

    Improving Quality Of Information In Background Investigation Request Packages

    OPM seeks to overhaul the federal security clearance process

    Report on metrics and best practices

    Not later than 180 days after December 20, 2019, the Director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, which serves as the primary executive branch service provider for background investigations for eligibility for access to classified information, eligibility to hold a sensitive position, and for suitability and fitness for other matters pursuant to Executive Order 13467 , shall, in consultation with the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council established under such executive order, submit to Congress a report on

    metrics for assessing the completeness and quality of packages for background investigations submitted by agencies requesting background investigations from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency

    rejection rates of background investigation submission packages due to incomplete or erroneous data, by agency and

    best practices for ensuring full and complete information in background investigation requests.

    Annual report on performance

    Not later than 270 days after December 20, 2019, and not less frequently than once each year thereafter, the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council shall submit to Congress a report on performance against the metrics and return rates identified in paragraphs and of subsection .

    Improvement plans


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    What Is Security Clearance Types And Requirements For Us Jobs

    Security clearance is a requirement for many US federal jobs. Hereâs a guide to the different types and how to get clearance.

    You may have heard of getting a background check when youâre hired for a job or been through the process with a previous employer. Security clearance is like a background check required for individuals hired to work for jobs either with the US government or any organization that might need national security information. This process ensures you are trustworthy and reliable enough to be granted access to classified information.

    While security clearance is required for government and cybersecurity employees in many countries, this article focuses on the US system. This article will present the different types of security clearance, the types of jobs that require it, and the process of getting security clearance.

    A Quick Guide To Security Clearances

    Are you ready to find a school that’s aligned with your interests?

    Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.

    Applying for a government position in cyber security? Youre going to see a lot of requirements for security clearances in the job descriptions.

    Security clearance procedures are somewhat intrusive and extremely heavy on paperwork. So to make your life a little easier, weve created a crash course on preparing for them.

    Wed also like to recommend the excellent PDF from ClearanceJobs, Security Clearance FAQs. This is packed with information and advice, including tips on filling out forms, explanations of acronyms and terminology, what to expect from the clearance interview and more.

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    Guideline J: Criminal Conduct

    The Concern:

    A history or pattern of criminal activity creates doubt about a person’s judgment, reliability and trustworthiness.

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

    • Allegations or admissions of criminal conduct, regardless of whether the person was formally charged
    • A single serious crime or multiple lesser offenses.

    Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

    • The criminal behavior was not recent
    • The crime was an isolated incident
    • The person was pressured or coerced into committing the act and those pressures are no longer present in that person’s life
    • The person did not voluntarily commit the act and/or the factors leading to the violation are not likely to recur
    • Acquittal
    • There is clear evidence of successful rehabilitation.

    Who Grants Security Clearances

    Security Clearance Process

    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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    Experience Knowledge & A Record Of Success

    Obtaining a government security clearance, whether for an individual or a facility, is often a challenge, especially in the current post-9/11 security climate. Because getting or maintaining ones security clearance has a significant impact on an individuals future, it is important to have accurate legal counsel and knowledgeable representation when dealing with these types of matters. Mr. Edmunds has garnered a great deal of experience pertaining to government security clearances, to his clients benefit.

    Misuse Of Information Technology Systems

    The misuse of information technology systems is a fairly new addition to the background investigation with growing technology as well as the advent of social media.

    Any illegal or unauthorized entry into information technology systems is a security clearance disqualifier.

    It includes illegal or unauthorized modification, manipulation, destruction, or denial of access to information on a system.

    Additionally, the introduction/removal of hardware, software, or media from any information technology system without authorization is a red flag.

    Many Military Occupational Specialties require some form of security clearance.

    The three levels of personnel clearance in the military are confidential, secret, and top-secret.

    The MOS you select determines what type military security clearance you need for the specialty.

    Security clearance qualifiers get established by the Department of Defense to make sure the service member is capable and trusting of not disclosing sensitive information.

    The Department of Defense conducts a thorough background check to see if you qualify for one of the levels of clearance.

    The background check looks into your personal character, conduct, criminal record, financial history, and may involve contacting references.

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    A Making Certain Policies And Execution Plans Relating To Personnel Clearances Available To Industry Partners


    In this section:

    Security executive agent

    The term “Security Executive Agent” means the officer serving as the Security Executive Agent pursuant to section 3162a of this title .

    Appropriate industry partner

    The term “appropriate industry partner” means a contractor, licensee, or grantee of Executive Order 12829 , as in effect on the day before December 20, 2019) that is participating in the National Industrial Security Program established by such Executive Order.

    Sharing of policies and plans required

    Each head of a Federal agency shall share policies and plans relating to security clearances with appropriate industry partners directly affected by such policies and plans in a manner consistent with the protection of national security as well as the goals and objectives of the National Industrial Security Program administered pursuant to Executive Order 12829 .

    Development of policies and procedures required

    Not later than 90 days after December 20, 2019, the Security Executive Agent and the Director of the National Industrial Security Program shall jointly develop policies and procedures by which appropriate industry partners with proper security clearances and a need to know can have appropriate access to the policies and plans shared pursuant to subsection that directly affect those industry partners.

    How Long Does A Security Clearance Last

    What Are U.S. Security Clearances?

    Generally, as long as youre employed by a cleared contractor or government agency, and you continue to need access to classified information, your security clearance will remain active, provided you comply with periodic reinvestigation requirements.

    Current reinvestigations are done based on the following timetable:

    • Top Secret clearances every six years, except for certain Special Access Programs or Industry cases, where five years is mandated
    • Secret clearances every ten years
    • Confidential clearances every ten years

    If funding permits, a certain percentage of reinvestigations are done on a random basis in between these time periods. Further, if concerns arise during the time you have access to classified information, your federal employer or an investigative agency may conduct a review outside the normal periodic reinvestigation process to determine whether you should still be eligible for access to classified information. If the concerns are serious enough, your access to the classified information may be suspended pending resolution of the review.

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    Federal Employment Fitness Investigation

    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

    A Reports And Plans Relating To Security Clearances And Background Investigations

    Sense of Congress

    It is the sense of Congress that

    ensuring the trustworthiness and security of the workforce, facilities, and information of the Federal Government is of the highest priority to national security and public safety

    the President and Congress should prioritize the modernization of the personnel security framework to improve its efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability

    the current system for background investigations for security clearances, suitability and fitness for employment, and credentialing lacks efficiencies and capabilities to meet the current threat environment, recruit and retain a trusted workforce, and capitalize on modern technologies and

    changes to policies or processes to improve this system should be vetted through the Council to ensure standardization, portability, and reciprocity in security clearances across the Federal Government.

    Accountability plans and reports


    Not later than 90 days after December 20, 2019, the Council shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees and make available to appropriate industry partners the following:

    A plan, with milestones, to reduce the background investigation inventory to 200,000, or an otherwise sustainable steady-level, by the end of year 2020. Such plan shall include notes of any required changes in investigative and adjudicative standards or resources.

    Report on the future of personnel security

    In general


    Recommendations on interagency governance.


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