The decision to postpone investigations is part of the Air Force’s strategy to meet the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, according to a March 11 memo signed by Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer and acting Air Force Undersecretary Jamie Morin.
Every five years, the Air Force conducts background examinations of its personnel with Top Secret clearances to determine if they continue to qualify for their security clearance.
Airmen holding Top Security clearances are generally found in the fields of intelligence, nuclear, command and control, cyber, space, and research and acquisition. The Air Force’s memo detailing the reductions stated it will retain “high priority” for all nuclear-related inspections.
Despite this, if you currently hold a Top Secret security clearance you shouldn’t worry it will expire during the suspension, said Major Matthew Hasson, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force.
“Top Secret clearances for airmen and civilians will not expire while they are in authorized Top Secret positions,” Maj. Hasson said in an email to the Air Force Times. “Suspension will only delay airmen or civilians from submitting their reinvestigations.”
But will the lack of investigations result in any meaningful threat to US security?
Not so, according to retired Col. Terry Stevens, who has more than 30 years of experience with personnel matters. The security risks should be minimal because these periodic re-investigations rarely result in people losing their Top Secret security clearance. “I can’t remember on a periodic ever hearing of anybody’s security clearance being revoked or downgraded,” Stevens said.
In fact, according to Stevens these investigations may be the precise item for the Air Force to forgo. “Re-investigating Top Secret security clearances, you don’t get anything out of it except the expense.”