What is an SSBI? Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) is reserved for employees (military, civilian and contractor) requiring a TOP SECRET security clearance and access to sensitive compartmented information (SCI).

Keep in mind that the SCI is not an investigation but an access determination based on an explicit need to access intelligence information, the SSBI investigation and the final adjudication. Once access is granted the applicant will be indoctrinated or “read on”. So, SCI is not an investigation it’s the access granted after the investigation and is usually referred to as TOP SECRET/SCI.

Since the national security stakes are high, there are more active inquiries occurring than with other investigations for security clearances at the SECRET level or below. The level of scrutiny involved in an SSBI makes it one of the most time consuming and detailed investigations.

The scope of the SSBI investigation goes back 10 years for general information concerning finances, education and professional activities. The investigators will check 7 years back for more personal information such as relationships and character references. Some of the investigative techniques involve running a check to verify:

  • The date & place of birth
  • National Agency Check into the Department of Defense agencies, FBI, and other databases to see if any derogatory information exists.
  • Spouse or cohabitant check to determine allegiance, associations and other factors that a close relationship might bring.
  • Credit checks provide more information about the applicant. This query into the major credit trackers can verify residences, identity, financial situations, relationships, patterns and much more.
  • Local law enforcement check to identify any arrests or activities involving law enforcement.
  • Public records verification to determine associations and activities the applicant may be or has been involved in.
  • Citizenship verification to ensure applicant is a US citizen and eligible for a security clearance.
  • Written Inquiries are provided to education and employment institutions and references to verify education level and employment.
  • Interviews are conducted based on references provided by the applicant. These interviews include neighbors, former spouses and the actual applicant.

The SSBI is the most thorough investigation and the most time intensive. Once granted, the applicant will be able to access appropriate classified information to the level at which they are cleared provided they have the need to know. Applicants can speed up the investigation and adjudication process by providing complete and accurate information on their SF 86. Any unexplained anomalies, mistakes or omissions could cause a delay or denial of the security clearances.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @ www.redbikepublishing.com.