Security Clearances


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A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information, after completion of a thorough background check. The objective of the national security adjudication process is to establish a reasonable expectation that employment or continued employment of the person be clearly consistent with the interests of national security. Once offered a job contingent upon satisfactory completion of an investigation, you are required to complete a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions. After the government initiates an investigation, the adjudications officials at the agency requiring the investigation will evaluate your case and communicate their recommendation to the appropriate personnel or security office.

The timeliness of a background investigation depends on the type of investigation conducted. Each background investigation requires that certain areas are covered before an investigation is completed. Providing complete and accurate information will assure that your investigation is completed in an efficient and timely manner. Below is general information on each clearance.

Public Trust

Agencies designate public trust positions based on the documented duties and responsibilities of the position. A Public Trust clearance (also known as a Confidential clearance) normally takes up to several months to complete. The clearance requires a National Agency Check with Local Agency Check (NACLC) and Credit investigation which dates back 7 years on the person's record and must be renewed with another investigation every 15 years. Applicants are required to complete federal Standard Form 85P. A position is designated at the High, Moderate, or Low risk level depending on the position’s potential for adverse impact to the integrity and efficiency of the service. The three risk levels are defined and explained in the table below.

Public Trust Risk Levels

HIGH (HR) Positions with the potential for exceptionally serious impact on the integrity and efficiency of the service. Duties involved are especially critical to the agency or program mission with a broad scope of responsibility and authority. Positions include:
  • Policy-making, policy-determining, and policy-implementing;
  • Higher level management duties or assignments, or major program responsibility;
  • Independent spokespersons or non-management position with authority for independent action;
  • Investigative, law enforcement, and any position that requires carrying a firearm; and
  • Fiduciary, public contact, or other duties demanding the highest degree of public trust
MODERATE (MR) Positions with the potential for moderate to serious impact on the integrity and efficiency of the service. Duties involved are considerably important to the agency or program mission with significant program responsibility or delivery of service. Positions include:
  • Assistants to policy development and implementation;
  • Mid-level management duties or assignments;
  • Any position with responsibility for independent or semi-independent action; and
  • Delivery of service positions that demand public confidence or trust.
LOW (LR) Positions that involve duties and responsibilities of limited relation to an agency or program mission, with the potential for limited impact on the integrity and efficiency of the service.


A Secret clearance requires a few months to a year to fully investigate, depending on the individual's background. A Secret clearance requires a NACLC, and a Credit investigation; it must also be re-investigated every 10 years. Investigative requirements for DoD clearances, which apply to most civilian contractor situations, are contained in the Personnel Security Program issuance known as DoD Regulation 5200-R, part C3.4.2.

Top Secret

Top Secret is a more stringent clearance. A Top Secret, or TS clearance, is often given as the result of a Single Scope Background Investigation, or SSBI. The SSBI includes checks of employment; education; organization affiliations; local agencies; where the subject has lived, worked, or gone to school; and interviews with persons who know the individual. The investigation may also include an NACLC on the candidate’s spouse or cohabitant and any immediate family members who are U.S. citizens other than by birth or who are not U.S. citizens. A TS clearance normally takes 6 to 18 months to complete. The SSBI must be renewed every 5 years. Also, in order to receive clearance, all initial TS candidates must pass an oral examination.

This page was last modified on 18 July 2013, at 22:18.

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