U.S. Government Security Clearances: Get the Facts

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Security ClearanceU.S. Government Security Clearances: Get the Facts

Learn all about the U.S. Government Security Clearance

Any person who has worked or will work for an organization that requires access to restricted information more than likely has or will need a security clearance.

The largest source of individuals with security clearances is the military population. Once this group finishes their military career, the majority pack up their uniform and security clearance to look for a civilian job. There are over 200,000 military personnel transitioning out of the service each year. These separating military members look for employment in fields such as the commercial defense-related fields where they can utilize their expert military training and technical skills. In addition, these jobs generally require background checks due to the sensitive nature of the materials the individual handles on a daily basis – this is where the former military member’s clearance becomes a valuable commodity.

The importance of a security clearance does not stop with defense contractors. The medical, telecommunications, education and financial fields (to name a few) have an increasing number of jobs where company information needs to be guarded and HR managers seek out individuals with current security clearances.

What is a U.S. Government Security Clearance?

A U.S. Government Security Clearance is a status granted by agencies of the U. S. Government that determines a person’s ability to access and view documents that pertain to national security. A U.S. Government Security Clearance investigation is completed in order to determine an individual’s loyalty, character, trustworthiness and reliability to ensure that they are eligible for access to official U.S. national security information. The Security Clearance investigation focuses on an individual’s character and conduct. It emphasizes factors such as honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, financial responsibility, criminal activity, emotional stability, and other similar and relevant areas. All Security Clearance investigations include national record and credit checks. Often, Security Clearance investigations include interviews with individuals who know the candidate for the Security Clearance as well as the candidates themselves.

Hire Veterans - Job Board for U.S. Veterans MilitaryWho conducts U.S. Government Security Clearance background investigations?

The the Defense Security Service (DSS) conducts the U.S. Government Security Clearance background investigations for the Department of Defense (DOD). These include background investigations for all military and civilian personnel who actually work for Department of Defense and military contractors. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts U.S. Government Security Clearance Investigations for most other branches of the Federal Government.

What is a Personnel Security Investigation?

A Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) is an inquiry into an one’s loyalty, character, trustworthiness and reliability to ensure that one is eligible to access classified information or for an appointment to a sensitive position that requires trust.

Why are Personnel Security Investigations and U.S. Government Security Clearances necessary?

Personnel Security Investigations and U.S. Government Security Clearances are key elements in protecting the security of the United States. PSIs and U.S. Government Security Clearances are required to counter the threats that may arise from foreign intelligence services, organizations, or people who wish to undermine or harm the United States Government.

Who decides whether a U.S. Government Security Clearance or access to a sensitive position is granted?

An adjudicator who works at one of the DOD Central Adjudication Facilities reviews the results of a PSI and compares it to established qualifying criteria for granting access to classified information

What is an interim U.S. Government Security Clearance?

An interim U.S. Government Security Clearance is one that is issued quickly to an individual for use at a specific job. Unlike a standard security clearance, interim clearances expire immediately after the individuals leave the job that required the clearance. Interim U.S. Government Security Clearances are generally of a low level and can be given within 30 days of request. An interim is issued once a review of the application is completed and the candidate is determined eligible. An interim clearance allows a person to have access to collateral classified information whiles their final clearance is being processed. Interim Clearances are issued automatically and can be denied. A denial, however, does not mean that a final will not be issued. It means there is something on the application which must be first reviewed and investigated fully.

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

An “active” clearance is one in which the candidate is presently eligible for access to classified information. A “current” clearance is one in which a candidate has been determined eligible for access to classified information but is not currently eligible without a reinstatement. A candidate has two years to remain on a “current” status before moving to an “expired” status. Both “active” and “current” clearances are easily transferred between employers. An “expired” clearance is one that has not been used in more than two years and cannot be reinstated. Once sponsored, the candidate must resubmit a clearance application and go forth with a new investigation. Individuals with expired clearances cannot be considered for jobs that require active or current clearances.

clearancejobsHow are U.S. Government Security Clearances levels determined and how are they measured?

According to the U. S. Government, security levels are measured by the amount of damage that would be caused to the U.S.A. if the information exposed were to be released to the public or to a foreign source. U.S. Government Security Clearances can be issued by many United Stated government agencies, including the Department of Defense and including all branches of the armed forces, the Department of Energy, the Department of Justice and the Nationial Security Agency, and Central Intelligence Agency. Major Department of Defense clearances include Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret with Single Scope Background Investigation (TS-SSBI) and Top Secret with Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS ­SCI).

To have access to classified information, one must possess the necessary elements. First, one must have a level of U.S. Government Security Clearance, at least equal to the classification of the information, and, an appropriate “need to know” the information in order to perform their duties. An individual may have a Top Secret clearance but this would not necessarily give them access to all Top Secret information. They would also need to have the ‘need to know’. It is also worth noting that the Department of Defense (DOD) operates its security program separate from other government agencies. It has its own procedures and standards. A Top Secret Clearance with the Department of Energy, for example, does not transfer to DOD and vice-a-versa.

Classified information is divided into 3 categories:

Confidential:

This refers to information or material, which if improperly disclosed could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to the national security.

Secret:

The unauthorized disclosure of secret information or material is which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.

Top Secret:

Applied to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. In addition, there is some classified information is so sensitive that even the extra protection measures applied to Top Secret information are not sufficient. This information is known as “Sensitive Compartmented Information” (SCI) or Special Access Programs (SAP). These require additional approval to be given access to this information. “For Official Use Only” is not a security classification. It is used to protect information covered under the Privacy Act, and other sensitive data.

Who actually issues the Secruity Clearances?

The Defense Industrial U.S. Government Security Clearance Office (DISCO) in Columbus, OH issues security clearances once all leads on a personnel U.S. Government Security Clearance (Personnel Clearance) investigation are complete and an applicant is considered eligible for Clearance.

What is DISCO?

The Defense Industrial U.S. Government Security Clearance Office (DISCO) is a component of DSS that maintains historical and current records on all DSS-issued personnel and facility clearances.

How much does it cost to get a FCL/Personnel Clearance (Personnel Clearance)?

At this time, there is no direct charge for a FCL or Personnel Clearance.

What Steps are requied to get a Personnel Clearance?

When a cleared contractor identifies an employee with a need to have access to classified information (e.g., the employee will work on a classified contract), the FSO ensures that the employee completes an electronic questionnaire for investigations processing. It’s called an “e-QIP”. They send the application to Office of Personnel Management for processing.

What is a collateral clearance?

A collateral clearance is a clearance with no caveats (e.g., special accesses such as COMSEC or NATO). In other words, TS, S and C are collateral clearances.

What is a clearance with a “caveat?”

A clearance with a caveat is a collateral clearance plus a special access. In order to have the special access, the cleared individual usually receives a briefing related to the caveat. COMSEC and NATO are examples of caveats requiring a briefing prior to access.

How do I get an SCI clearance?

A Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance is a special access beyond a Confidential (C), Secret(S) or Top Secret (TS). In order to have a (SCI) clearance, a cleared contractor must first be selected by a government agency. That government agency issues and monitors SCIs. With the exception of processing the C, S or TS facility and personnel clearance, DSS is not involved in SCI clearances.

Can a naturalized person get a Personnel Clearance?

Yes. A naturalized person is to be treated as a US citizen. However, the naturalized person may have to provide information on his or her clearance application regarding foreign relatives, associations, etc.

What type of information is requested on a U.S. Government Security Clearance application?

The amount and detail of information varies with the level of clearance requested. It may include family information, past and current work history, locations you have lived, roommate names, financial history, travel history, groups or affiliations, and more.

How are U.S. Government Security Clearances granted?

Once it is determined that an individual requires a U.S. Government Security Clearance because of assignment or job, the individual is instructed to complete a U.S. Government Security Clearance Background Investigation Questionnaire. As of May 2001, DOD requires that this form be completed by use of a computer software program, known as EPSQ (Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire), instead of the paper form, the SF-86. The ESPQ carries the same questions as the SF-86. When completing the questionnaire, for Confidential, and Secret Clearances, it’s necessary to provide information for the previous five years. For Top Secret Clearances, one must provide information for the previous ten years. It’s important to note here that giving false information on a Security Document constitutes a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 101 and Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (UCMJ).

Under the United States Code, one may be fined, and imprisoned for a period of five years. Under the UCMJ, the maximum punishment includes reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for a period of five years, and a dishonorable discharge. If you realize after you have handed in the form that you have inadvertently made a mistake or omitted something important, please tell your Security Officer, Recruiter, MEPS Security Interviewer, or the DSS Investigator when you are interviewed. If you do not do so, the error or omission could be held against you during the adjudicative process. It should also be noted that page 10 of the SF-86 contains a statement which you sign authorizing release of any information about you to U.S. Government Security Clearance Investigators. This means that investigators can access any and all information about you, including sealed records, juvenile records, expunged records, and medical records. Once you complete the ESPQ, the document is sent to the Defense Security Service (DSS). DSS is responsible to verify the information and perform the actual background investigation. The level of investigation depends upon the level of access to be granted.

For Confidential and Secret Clearances:

A National Agency Check (NAC)-A computerized search of investigative files and other records held by federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A Local Agency Check (LAC)-A review of appropriate criminal history records held by local law enforcement agencies, such as police departments or sheriffs, with jurisdiction over the areas where you have resided, gone to school, or worked. Financial checks – A review of your Credit Record. For Top Secret Clearances, a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) is performed which includes the entire above, plus: Field interviews of references to include coworkers, employers, personal friends, educators, neighbors, and other appropriate individuals.

Checks of records held by employers, courts, and rental offices. A subject interview – An interview with you by an investigator. These inquiries are performed by one or more investigators who work in the geographic area where the information is to be obtained. NACs, however, may be performed electronically from a central location.

Field Interviews

When conducting field interviews, the investigators will normally begin with individuals you list as references in the questionnaire. They then use those references to develop names of additional references, etc. These references will be asked questions about your honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness, and their opinion on whether you should be given access to classified information or assigned to a sensitive position or position of trust. Your references will also be asked questions about your past and present activities, employment history, education, family background, neighborhood activities, and finances.

During the investigation the investigator(s) will try to determine if you have had any involvement with drugs, encounters with the police.

Subject Interviews

The objective of the subject interview is to obtain a complete picture of you as an individual so that an adjudicator can determine whether you will be able to cope with having access to classified or sensitive information without becoming a security risk. Therefore, the interview will be wide-ranging and cover most aspects of your life. During the subject interview, expect to be questioned about your family background, past experiences, health, use of alcohol or drugs, financial affairs, foreign travel, and other pertinent matters.

transitionassistanceWhat determines approval or disapproval?

It’s important to note that OPM does not make any U.S. Government Security Clearance determinations or recommendations. OPM simply gathers information. Once the information has been verified, and the investigations completed, OPM presents the information to the specific military service’s or agency adjudicator authority (each agency or service has their own), who determine whether or not to grant the U.S. Government Security Clearance, using standards set by that particular agency or service. Primarily, adjudicators look for honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, and reliability. On cases that contain significant derogatory information warranting additional action, the adjudicator may draft a request for additional investigation/information, or request psychiatric or alcohol and drug evaluation. Even so, adjudicators are not the final authority. All denials of clearances must be personally reviewed by a branch chief, or higher. The adjudicator considers the following factors when evaluating an individual’s conduct:

The nature, extent and seriousness of the conduct The circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation The frequency and recency of the conduct The individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct The voluntariness of participation The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other pertinent behavioral changes The motivation for the conduct The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress; and The likelihood of continuation of the conduct Accordingly, each case is judged on its own merits and final determination remains the responsibility of the specific department or agency. Any doubt as to whether access to classified information is clearly consistent with national security will be resolved in favor of the national security. Because of a recent change in the law, there are some factors which will positively result in the denial of a clearance. As a result of the Smith Amendment, the FY01 Defense Authorization Act amended Chapter 49 of Title 10, United States Code, and precluded the initial granting or renewal of a U.S.

Government Security Clearance by (DOD) under the following four specific circumstances: An individual has been convicted in any court of the U.S. of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. An individual is (currently) an unlawful user of, or is addicted to, a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 or the Controlled Substances Act (21U.S.C. 802)). An individual is mentally incompetent, as determined by a mental health professional approved by the DOD. An individual has been discharged or dismissed from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions. The statute also provides that the Secretary of Defense and the secretary of the military department concerned may authorize an exception to the provisions concerning convictions, dismissals and discharges from the armed force in meritorious cases.

What are polygraphs?

Polygraphs are special tests that can be administered to help determine an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information. The use of the polygraph for any Department of Defense program is governed by DOD regulations. The DOD regulation details the exact manner in which the examination must be conducted. No relevant question may be asked during the polygraph examination that has not been reviewed with the person to be examined before the examination, and all questions must have a special relevance to the inquiry. Certain “validating” questions may be asked without prior disclosure to establish a baseline from which the examiners can judge the validity of the answers to the relevant questions. The probing of a person’s thoughts or beliefs, or questions on subjects that are not directly relevant to the investigation, such as religious or political beliefs or beliefs and opinions about racial matters, are prohibited.

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

The purpose of a polygraph is to determine, to the greatest extent possible, whether or not a given applicant can be trusted with sensitive information. Two types of polygraphs exist, and either one or both polygraphs may be administered to the candidate in question. Polygraphs are conducted by trained polygraph examiners who have been schooled on administering them. A Counter Intelligence polygraph asks the candidate questions limited to the subject’s allegiance to the US. The questions are based on foreign contacts, foreign associations, etc. A Counter Intelligence polygraph is the most common polygraph. A Lifestyle Polygraph asks the candidate questions the concern the subject’s personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior.

Questions asked might concern drug and alcohol use, sexual preference and behavior, mental health, family relationships, compulsive or addictive behavior, and more. A Lifestyle Polygraph attempts to look for issues in a person’s private life for that which he or she might be blackmailed. A Full Scope polygraph is a combination of both the Counter Intelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs.

Can I obtain a U.S. Government Security Clearance on my own?

No. There are two ways in which you can obtain a U.S. Government Security Clearance; first, by joining the United States military; or second, by being sponsored by an employer who is able to process candidates to receive clearances

Can a non-US citizen obtain a U.S. Government Security Clearance?

According to the United States government, only legal United States citizens can obtain U.S. Government Security Clearances. In rare instances, individuals with highly specialized skills and experience may also be considered for the clearance process.

How long does a U.S. Government Security Clearance take to process from the beginning when filling out the application?

Currently low level clearances can take up to one year to complete and be issued. Higher levels U.S. Government Security Clearances can take up to two years to be processed. There are exceptions to this depending on the skill set needed for a particular position but these instances are rare and can still take a year to process. Three distinct parts of the process are: preinvestigation (filling out the appropriate forms), investigation (the Office of Personnel Management conducts the background check on the individual), and adjudication (an Office of Personnel Management representative reviews the investigation results along with other information and makes a determination on clearance award).

How often will a Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) be done?

After the initial PSI is completed, a Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) is required every 5 years for a Top Secret clearance, 10 years for a Secret clearance, or 15 years for a Confidential clearance. However, civilian and military personnel of DOD can be randomly reinvestigated before they are due for a PR.

What status do U.S. Government Security Clearances have?

Clearance status is determined by when the clearance was last used. If you present job requires use of a U.S. Government Security Clearance that clearance is referred to as ‘active’. If you have not used your U.S. Government Security Clearance in your job in the past two years, that clearance is referred to as ‘current’. If you have not used security in more than two years that clearance is referred to as ‘expired’. Active clearances are easily transferable between employers who are approved to hold clearances.

If I am granted a U.S. Government Security Clearance, who will notify me?

If you receive a U.S. Government Security Clearance, you will be notified by your employing organization. Before you can have access to classified information, your employing organization must also give you a security briefing. To find out the status of your U.S. Government Security Clearance, contact your security officer.

What is the value of a clearance?

Professionals with active U.S. Government Security Clearances are in high demand in many industries, occupations and professional levels. Our nation’s security is a high priority for the United States government and their contractors, and the need for qualified individuals at every level is just as important. While individuals with high clearance levels are very desirable, there are also important needs at every level for professionals with U.S. Government Security Clearances.

Many contractors say that a U.S. Government Security Clearance is needed to apply for their jobs. How can I get a clearance in advance so I can apply for these jobs? Can I pay for it myself?

Office of Personnel Management has no procedure for an individual to independently apply for an investigation or U.S. Government Security Clearance. Clearances are based on investigations requested by Federal agencies, appropriate to specific positions and their duties. Until a person is offered such a position, the government will not request or pay for an investigation for a clearance. Once a person has been offered a job (contingent upon satisfactory completion of an investigation), the government will require the person to complete a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, initiate the investigation, adjudicate the results, and issue the appropriate clearance. We know that some Defense Department contractors require applicants to already have a clearance, and they have the right to administer their personnel hiring procedures the way they want as long as they don’t discriminate based on prohibited factors (such as race or religion). Persons who already have clearances are those who are already employed by a government contractor (or by the government itself) and are looking for other job opportunities.

How long does a background investigation take?

The average time to process a U.S. Government Security Clearance is presently 18 months. However, the length of time is widely varied depending upon the level of clearance and the issues involved. Three distinct parts of the process are: preinvestigation (filling out the appropriate forms), investigation (the Office of Personnel Management conducts the background check on the individual), and adjudication (an Office of Personnel Management representative reviews the investigation results along with other information and makes a determination on clearance award).

Doesn’t the FBI conduct all Federal background investigations?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense, and a few other agencies share this responsibility. The FBI mostly conducts investigations on the following: High level Presidential appointees, cabinet officers, agency heads and staff who may work at the White House directly for the President.

Can I see if I am qualified for a U.S. Government Security Clearance?

No. It is not possible to “pre-apply” for a U.S. Government Security Clearance. Not all Federal employees or contractors have U.S. Government Security Clearances. Individuals who are tentatively selected for government jobs (or as Federal contractors) will be investigated as appropriate. If access to National Security Information is required, you will need to complete a security questionnaire and an investigation will be conducted. If the investigation results are favorable, a U.S. Government Security Clearance will be granted if appropriate.

If an individual had a clearance or a favorable PSI in the past, can they now get a clearance for another position?

To be issued a clearance for another position, an individual must meet the following requirements: For a Clearance at a Cleared Facility under the NISP, the termination date of your former clearance must have been within the past 24 months, and there must not have been any subsequent adverse information on you that would preclude you from being issued a new clearance. If you do not meet these requirements, the employing organization may ask you to complete an EPSQ for them to request OPM to perform a PSI on you. For Federal or Military Service, the date you left prior federal or military service must have occurred less than 24 months ago. However, there must not have been any subsequent adverse information on you that would preclude you from being issued a new clearance. In addition, if your initial investigation or PR was not completed within the timeframe described in the answer to the previous question, an investigation may have to be requested before you can be granted another clearance.

How do I check on the status of my clearance investigation?

To learn the status of your PSI you must contact your security officer.

After a clearance is granted, can it later be revoked?

Yes. There is a continuing evaluation requirement for all personnel holding U.S. Government Security Clearances. DOD regulations require the military services and DOD agencies to establish security programs so that supervisory personnel know their responsibilities in matters pertaining to the cleared individuals under their supervision. Such programs provide practical guidance as to indicators that may signal matters of possible concern which would call into question whether it is in the best interests of the country for an individual to continue to hold a U.S. Government Security Clearance. Each service and agency provides supervisors with specific instructions regarding reporting procedures (for adverse information). Facility Security Officers (FSOs) are also obligated under the NISPOM to report adverse information on cleared employees. If considered necessary, on review of the reported information, the appropriate authority can request an investigation to determine whether that individual’s clearance should be removed. In cases of grave concern, a clearance can even be suspended pending the results of the investigation.

For what reasons could an individual be denied a U.S. Government Security Clearance?

Basically, there is no one thing that will result in denial of a U.S. Government Security Clearance and there are not many instances in which a person’s clearance is denied. Clearance adjudicators use a documented guide and “formula” to determine whether or not the individual is eligible for a U.S. Government Security Clearance. In an applicant, they look for honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, and reliability. On cases that contain significant derogatory information, further investigation is usually required. There are, however, four criteria which will positively result in the denial of a clearance: an individual convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison for more than one year, an applicant is (currently) an illegal user of, or is addicted to, a controlled substance, the subject is mentally incompetent, or the individual has been discharged or dismissed from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions. When there is an issue with a candidate and more review needs to occur prior to granting or denying a clearance, the paperwork is forwarded to the Department of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) for further processing. DOHA puts all the information together, provides its recommendation and then goes to the requesting government agency for a final decision. Once the decision is made, the applicant is notified. In addition, the applicant is allowed a detailed appeal process.

Why is there a clearance backlog?

The history is fairly long and complicated. However, certain specific events give a clear understanding of how the U.S. Government Security Clearance investigation process has evolved, and the difficulties the US government has faced. In general, four types of problems have caused the U.S. Government Security Clearance backlog to stay maintained at large numbers.

  1. Increase of new personnel clearance requests and periodic reinvestigations
  2. Inadequate resources and personnel for Defense Security Service
  3. Frequent changes in leadership positions at Defense Security Service
  4. Problems shifting responsibility from Defense Security Service to Office of PersonnelManagement

What is the EPSQ (Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire)?

Until July 2005, the EPSQ was the electronic U.S. Government Security Clearance application used within the NISP.

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

The e-QIP is the automated request for personnel security investigations which in July, 2005, replaced the Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire (EPSQ).

What is the JPAS (Joint Personnel Adjudication System)?

The JPAS is the official personnel U.S. Government Security Clearance database management system for the Department of Defense. All NISP cleared contractors will use this system for all types of personnel clearance actions. For more information, visit the JPAS website at https://jpas.osd.mil/.

What are the various types of investigations?

Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) A periodic reinvestigation (PR) is when a currently cleared individual is required to review, update and resubmit his or her clearance application for a reinvestigation. Periodic Reinvestigations are routinely required every 5 years for those with TS clearances, every 10 years for those with Secret clearances and every 15 years for those with Confidential clearances. A PR is done to ensure that a candidate should still have access to classified information. Random Periodic Reinvestigations are also administered at will. National Agency Check (NAC/LAC) A NAC is the type of investigation required for a Secret or Confidential clearance. It includes a thorough review of the candidate’s national and local records. It generally does not require an interview with an investigator. Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) An SSBI is a more detailed investigation and is required for a TS investigation. It includes a review of the applicant’s national and local records and an interview with an investigator. Special Inquiry Investigation (SII). An SII is a special investigation conducted when some type of adverse information has been reported/discovered on a cleared individual.

A trustworthiness investigation is not conducted for a U.S. Government Security Clearance. It is requested when an applicant is going to have access to Sensitive but Unclassified Information. For example, trustworthiness investigations are sometimes conducted on those that will have access to a sensitive site (e.g., cleaning crew on a military installation).

What is the National Industrial Security Program (NISP)?

The NISP is the industrial security program regulated by the Department of Defense (Department of Defense), Defense Security Service (DSS). In addition to Department of Defense agencies, there are 23 additional federal government participants. The main regulation document under the NISP for cleared contractors is the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM). How does a company get a facility clearance (FCL)? A company must be sponsored by a government agency or a cleared contractor for a facility clearance. A contractor cannot sponsor itself for a facility clearance. Who can sponsor a company for a FCL? Either a government agency or a cleared contractor can sponsor a company for a facility clearance. A contractor cannot sponsor itself for a facility clearance.

How does a customer sponsor a company for a FCL?

Sponsorship is in the form of a letter to the Defense Industrial U.S. Government Security Clearance Office (DISCO) 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 classified contract number, facility clearance level and the requestor point of contact and phone number.

Who has to be cleared in connection with a FCL?

A Defense Security Service (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 that have control over the company (e.g., the CEO, President, Executive VP and/or other officers or board members) and the Facility Security Officer 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. Alternatively, the officer must officially step down from his or her title 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 in which a facility is cleared, the FSO is the main POC for the DSS IS Rep. The FSO must be cleared at the level of the FCL.

What are Code Words and Security Classification?

The Intelligence Community operates on the basis of CODE WORDS for just about everything. There is a technical distinction between a code word and a nickname. A code word is usually a single, five-letter word selected from a list contained in a document known as JANAP 299 (Joint Army, Navy, Air Force Publication). A code word always is assigned a classified meaning. A nickname usually consists of two words and is assigned an unclassified meaning.

TOP SECRET UMBRA, for example, indicates that information about the operation with the code word “umbra” is top secret. Employees may have a nickname for this operation like “spoke wheel” which implies that it’s got something to do with transportation, and may or may not remind the employee of the cover story; in this case, the possible use of bicycle tires for something. Often, the nickname implies something the exact opposite of the real operation: SKYBORNE for an underseas operation, e.g., or WATERLOG for an space operation.

Sometimes, four-letter code words are used, like GYRO, for instance. Whenever you see a four letter code word, this usually means that the information it refers to was obtained from intercepted communications by top officials from foreign countries. Other four-letter code words refer to mail openings and information obtained from foreign books.

Classified documents are often labeled with all the associated code words; like TOP SECRET UMBRA GAMMA GYRO SKYBORNE WATERLOG. Each word may have a different security classification requirement. In this case, the employee would have to have the security clearance for each level. A clearance for GAMMA might not suffice for WATERLOG. This has resulted in the commonly-seen whiteout or blackout through certain sentences in reports, because the most classified material has been made unreadable.


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  1. Hi, I’ve got a question about the four automatic disqualifiers from getting a security clearance. The article lists one of the disqualifiers as being a discharge under dishonorable conditions. Does that mean only a Dishonorable discharge, or does it incluse Bad Conduct, Other than Honorable, and General Discharges? I haven’t been able to find this answer anywhere! Can someone refer me to the government publication about this?

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