Everyone has heard of a SECRET clearance or a TOP SECRET one, but many don’t realize there are clearances that are considered higher than TOP SECRET. Some call them “TOP SECRET +” or they refer to their acronyms, which are well-known in the community. SCI stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information and SAP stands for Special Access Program. Security clearance levels come with different investigations and different challenges.
As the name says some information is segregated into compartments and can only be accessed by people who are “read on” to the program. They must understand the type of info they will be accessing, the impact of it if it were to be leaked, etc.
While I’m not a security clearance expert, as someone who’s spent almost my entire career with one, I know that if you do have an SCI or SAP clearance, you should not tell that information to just anyone. For one thing, just having a clearance makes you a target for espionage, but if the wrong person or group finds out you have a high level clearance like SCI or SAP then you are even more of an attractive target for someone wanting to get our country’s secrets. Spear phishing and data mining campaigns remain on of the main ways cyber criminals target American intellectual property. The more information you have access to based on your clearance level, the more likely you are to be a target.
Unless someone has a reason to know you have a certain type of clearance, then don’t tell them. Family, friends, and even co-workers don’t all need to know this information. Once you tell them, you don’t know who they tell. The last thing you need is for it to get back to someone of authority that “you have a TS/SCI clearance that gives you access to this or that.”
There are also special considerations that a person must take when they possess one of these types of unique clearance levels. Keep in mind that you’ve been granted a specific clearance level because of your unique need to access the information. With more access comes more responsibility.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you possess a clearance (of any kind):
1. They don’t necessarily transfer automatically to other government agencies like the Department of Energy or Department of Homeland Security, or any other. Each has their own requirements, etc. One time I worked on a project for DOE and when I was asked to fill out clearance paperwork, I responded with “I have DOD clearance XXXXX” Their response was “that is nice, we don’t care, fill this out.”
2. You should consider the answer when someone asks what your clearance is. If you are accessing a building or meeting that requires your clearance to be verified, they shouldn’t be asking “what is your clearance.” What they should be doing is having you talk to someone who is in front of a JPAS terminal, who will ask for your social security number. They will run that and verify your clearance. If a meeting or facility truly is secure, they won’t take your word for it that you have a particular clearance level.
3. Lastly, putting it on your resume is good as it is a marketable feature, but don’t throw it on your Facebook page, tweet it, or put it on your personal website. You are essentially telling the world and the world does not need to know. Resumes are considered confidential by most, if not all Human Resource departments. If you upload your resume to a job hunting website that is not vetted like ClearanceJobs.com consider putting something like “Possesses DOD security clearance, details available upon request.”
Possessing a SAP clearance is a valuable asset – increasing your earning potential as well as your job prospects. But along with the value of a higher-level security clearance comes higher responsibility, inside and outside the office.