How long does the process take?
It depends on several factors, and the type of investigation. In the past three years, DOD has had a significant backlog of security clearances and reinvestigations pending, most especially for TOP SECRET level access.
Security clearance requirements has risen dramatically since 9/11 -- both for military members and defense contractors.
In general, expect a CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET clearance to take between 1 and 3 months. A TOP SECRET will probably take between 4 and 8 months. However, some individuals have been waiting for the results of their TOP SECRET investigation for more than one year. In general, the more there is to investigate, the longer the investigation will take. Expect the investigation to take longer if you have:
- 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.
For new military recruits, the services generally begin the computerized process of the investigation (NAC, LOC, Credit Check), while the recruit is in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) . However, if the recruit requires a Top Secret Clearance, the field interviews generally aren't started until after the recruit goes on active duty (basic training). This is because the field interviews are the most expensive part of the process, and some recruits change their mind while in the DEP and don't ship out to basic training.
If your technical training (AIT/Tech School/A-School) requires access to classified information, you may be assigned to do details (such as answering the phone in an office) while waiting for your Security Clearance to be granted. In some cases, you may be authorized to attend non-classified portions of the training while awaiting the results of your security clearance application. Sometimes, military commanders can authorize an "interim clearance" which allows access to classified information while waiting for the official clearance to be approved. This can sometimes be done if the initial computerized criminal check finds no problems.
How Do I Check on the Status of My Clearance Investigation?
Individuals are not allowed to check directly with DSS concerning the current status of a security clearance background investigation (You don't think DSS has better things to do than answer 1,000 calls per day from everyone with an active clearance investigation going on?). All status checks must be made by the Unit or Contractor Security Officer. Individuals who are concerned about the status must go through the Security Officer, who is allowed to contact DSS telephonically.
After I'm Granted a Clearance, Can it Later Be Revoked?
Certainly. There is a continuing evaluation requirement for all personnel holding 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 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 individuals clearance should be removed. In cases of grave concern, a clearance can even be suspended pending the results of the investigation.