Security Clearances

Many people think that they can go to a company or agency and apply for their own security clearance. This is far from the truth. Only the federal government can grant someone a security clearance, and to get one the applicant must work for a government agency or contractor and conduct business that justifies granting him or her access to highly sensitive information.

Title:Top Three Tasks When Applying for a Security Clearance

Author:Thomas Braden

Date:May 2021

Editor Notes

This article is written by Thomas Braden, the author of A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service, available on Amazon:

In the article author describes some of the recent changes in process and identifies the top tasks to focus on when applying for security clearance.

Top Three Tasks When Applying for a Security Clearance

As the result of Congressional legislation and Presidential Executive Orders, all federal positions which require a security clearance, have their background investigations completed by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) in Quantico, VA. Their website is a wealth of information and is available, here:

By all pre-COVID accounts, the federal government's reorganization of a variety of agencies and entities under DCSA's leadership has been a success. By streamlining and expediting the process, DCSA has reduced a huge backlog of almost 200,000 pending cases. Despite the many successes in this reorganization, the average processing time still exceeds 3-4 months.

So, what can you do to avoid delays in your processing? You can ensure the following:

Be organized

When you begin your background investigation and have to complete the perquisite SF-86 via the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system, you need to be well-organized. If you've done this before, the system may have retained your information. If not, you will be starting from scratch and need to have your facts in order. You will need to outline your entire family history including dates of birth and current addresses. That may sound easy, of course you know Mom's birthday... but what year? And you will even need to provide this information for your outlaws... I meant, in-laws and extended family (again, including place and date of birth and yes, dates of death, too.)

You will need to provide data reaching back as far as ten years, including addresses, foreign travel/contacts, etc. I recommend that you have a copy of your credit report on hand, as it will likely contain useful information. For each period of employment and/or residence, you will also need to provide a current U.S. based point of contact who can vouch for you during that time; such as a neighbor, co-worker or boss. You will need full names, as well as valid phone numbers and email addresses. This is time consuming and may involve some sleuthing on your part to track them down today. (You may want to find them on Facebook of Linked In and give them a head's up, as well.)

Also, men will be required to provide verification of their registration for the Selective Service (aka, "the draft.") Fortunately, you can look up your registration number:

Get finger-printed, properly

According to DCSA, the next biggest reason which causes delays in the completion of your background investigation is finger-printing. Yeah, this one surprised me as well, but it can be major hiccup in your processing. I had previously had a security clearance (with finger-prints on the record) for more than 25 years, but none of that mattered... I needed to get a new set of finger-prints and they needed to be collected electronically. Luckily, I was located near Washington, D.C. and was able to get this task completed on one of the military bases. If I wasn't retired (and therefore had access to the base), I'm not exactly sure how I would have completed this task. So, think that part through, you may need to be escorted onto a DoD installation, or you may need to find a civilian police station that is willing to do it. You'll also need to verify if your organization and level of clearance requires submission via the same DoD electronic system, or will they accept the tradition rolled/hard copy prints. I would certainly run these requirements to ground, early-on in the process with your Human Resources Office (HRO) and/or Security Office.

Be honest

Another reason which causes delays when completing your background investigation is extensive foreign travel and/or undisclosed foreign contacts, and foreign investments which the DCSA investigators will need to exert time and resources chasing down. If you've lived or served overseas, this can be an issue. You will need to provide all dates of foreign travel. I recommend checking your passport and Facebook, Instagram or other social media for pictures you or your family may have posted. (If you haven't lived overseas, this may sound ridiculous, but it's easy to forget that day trip across the border....) You will also need to identify if that travel was for work or pleasure. (At some point it gets compared to the actual travel they find with your passport; so, it's best if you include everything.) Lastly, you will need to disclose any foreign contacts that you had or maintained during those times. This could be your landlord, a co-worker, or your maid/gardener. My advice is to provide as much information as you possibly can; again, including any known contact information that you may have for these foreign contacts. If they're just that, casual acquaintances, you should be fine; however, if they're considered "close and/or continuous" you have to provide additional information. This is particularly true if your spouse is/was a foreign national and perhaps maintains a house or other foreign investment. So, be honest, be prepared and come to this process ready to disclose everything.

If you follow these rules

So, if I follow these three rules will I be guaranteed to obtain my security clearance?

No, there never any guarantees, but you should help in speeding up the timeline for DCSA to make an adjudication/determination.

The Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information are used by DoD Central Adjudication Facilities (DoDCAF) to determine both initial and continued eligibility for access to classified information. The adjudication process is an examination of a sufficient period of a person's life to make an affirmative determination that the person is an acceptable security risk. Eligibility for access to classified information is predicated upon the individual meeting these personnel security guidelines. The adjudication process is the careful weighing of a number of variables known as the whole-person concept. All available, reliable information about the person, past and present, favorable and unfavorable, is considered in reaching a clearance determination. When an individual's life history shows evidence of unreliability or untrustworthiness, questions arise whether the individual can be relied on and trusted to exercise the responsibility necessary for working in a secure environment where protection of classified information is paramount.

But if you follow the guidelines above: Be Organized; Get the finger-prints correct; and, Be Honest. You should be well on your way to a streamlined adjudication process.

I cover this - and so much more - in greater depth and detail throughout my book, A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service, now available on Amazon for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, I might add!

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