A security clearance is a valuable commodity outside of the military. Companies involved with Department of Defense (DoD) or national security related contracts can accrue the expense of employee security clearances. Thus many DoD contractors prefer to hire ex-military personnel with current clearances. To maintain a valid clearance do your job-hunting immediately after transitioning.
A security clearance may increase your salary from $5,000 to $15,000 or more. A current clearance will save employers time and money conducting a background check. When you leave a job, or no longer need to have access to classified national security information, your security clearance is terminated. However in most cases, it is still easier to get a clearance administratively restored than apply for a new one. This gives military members with previous clearances an advantage over those who have never had a clearance issued.
Companies with defense-related projects or contracts often require security clearances. However, the importance of a security clearance does not stop with defense contractors. The medical, telecommunications, education and financial fields have an increasing number of jobs where company information needs to be guarded, and HR managers seek out individuals with current security clearances.
Civilian careers possibly needing a security clearance: software engineers, logisticians, intelligence analysts, systems administrators, systems engineers, program managers, telecom engineers, linguists, database administration, business developers, financial analysts, and security officers.
Some companies requesting a clearance:
Depending on the clearance level, a security clearance must be renewed every 5, 10, or 15 years. A Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) is required every 5 years for a TOP SECRET (TS) Clearance, 10 years for a SECRET Clearance or 15 years for a CONFIDENTIAL Clearance. However, both civilian and military personnel of DoD can be randomly reinvestigated before they are due for a Periodic Reinvestigation. In the past few years, the DoD has had a significant backlog of security clearances and reinvestigations. In general, expect a CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET clearance to take between 1 and 3 months and a TS will probably take between 4 and 8 months or more. The more there is to investigate, the longer the investigation will take.
Situations that may increase the investigation:
Types of clearance
- Lived or worked in several geographic locations or overseas
- Traveled outside of the United States
- Relatives who have lived outside of the United States
- Background information that is difficult to obtain or involves issues that require an expansion of your case
- Bankruptcy & unpaid bills
- Criminal charges
When a job description states that a security clearance is required, it typically means that you must submit to and "pass" a personnel security investigation (PSI). A PSI is essentially a background check, but it's likely to probe deeper than a typical, employment-related check. It consists of one or more of the following, depending on the type of security clearance.
- Verification of U.S. citizenship
- Search for investigative files and other records at Federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Search for criminal records at local law enforcement agencies
- Polygraph exam (lie detector test)
- Credit and other financial checks
- Check of records at courts, rental agencies and your employers
- Interviewing your references
- Interviewing you
A Confidential security clearance can be the easiest and quickest to obtain. Other clearances will almost always involve a background check by the Defense Investigation Service (DIS), confidential clearances may be operated by the agencies themselves. This clearance needs to be reinvestigated every 15 years.
A Secret clearance, also known as Ordinary Secret, requires a few months to a year to fully investigate depending on the individual's activities. Refer to the “Security Clearance Renewal” section for situations that may increase investigation time. A Secret clearance requires a NAC/LAC/Credit investigation and must be reinvestigated every 10 years.
Top Secret is a more stringent clearance. A Top Secret (TS) clearance, is often given as the result of a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI). SSBI agents contact previous employers, coworkers and other individuals. Standard elements include background 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 applicant. The investigation may include a check on the candidate’s spouse or cohabitant and any immediate family members who aren’t natural U.S. citizens or who are not U.S. citizens. The minimum investigation scope is the past ten (10) years or to age 18, whichever is less. TS clearances generally afford one access to data that affects national security, counterterrorism/counterintelligence, or other highly sensitive data. There are far fewer individuals with TS clearances than Secret clearances. A TS clearance can take as little as 3-6 months to obtain, but more often takes 6-18 months, while sometimes taking up to 3 years to obtain. The SSBI must be renewed every 5 years.
General Security Clearance Information
Once you have a security clearance, and the need for it continues, you must undergo a reinvestigation every 5, 10, or 15 years, depending on the level of your clearance. When you no longer need a security clearance... if you leave that job or no longer need to have access to classified national security information... your security clearance is terminated or suspended. If you are a candidate for a security clearance electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system (e-QIP), you must provide personal details on your background. Once completed, forward it to your security officer who will submit it to the Defense Security Service (DSS). Only a security officer, or another designated official in your organization, has the authority to submit security questionnaires directly to DSS. Your investigation will be opened once DSS receives your e-QIP and validates that it is totally completed.
Filling out the e-QIP:
1. Read through the instructions and questions to find out what is required.
2. Collect the necessary information.
3. Allow plenty of time to complete the form.
4. Answer all of the questions.
Failure to complete the form correctly may delay the opening or completion of your PSI and the adjudication of your case. If you do not understand a question, please ask for guidance from your security officer, the person who gave you the questionnaire, or the DSS Customer Call Center at 1-888-347-5213. You may also learn more about e-QIP by visiting the DSS web site at www.dss.mil