A security clearance really refers to eligibility to access classified information – and you can’t get a clearance (or access) on your own. In order to obtain a security clearance, you must first obtain a job that requires one. Your employer – either the federal government or a government contractor – will walk you through the process of obtaining a clearance, after they’ve decided they want you for the job. Step one – find a job. Step two, obtain a clearance.
types of Security Clearance
There are three main types of security clearance:
The government recently updated the process for obtaining a security clearance. The Federal Investigative Standards now include a tiered system:
|Tier 1||NACI||Low Risk, Non-Sensitive, including HSPD-12 Credentialing||None||None||SF85|
|Tier 2||MBI||Moderate Risk Public Trust (MRPT)||Tier 2R||NACLC||SF85P|
|Tier 3||NACLC & ANACI||Non-Critical Sensitive National Security, including Secret & “L” access eligibility||Tier 3R||NACLC||SF86|
|Tier 4||BI||High Risk Public Trust (HRPT)||Tier 4R||PRI||SF85P|
|Tier 5||SSBI||Critical Sensitive and Special Sensitive National Security, including Top Secret, SCI, and “Q” access eligibility||Tier 5R||SSBI-PR & PPR||SF86|
Who Can Get a Security Clearance
To obtain a security clearance you must be sponsored by a government agency for a position which requires access to classified information. You must be a U.S. citizen to obtain a security clearance.
Many individuals are under the false impression they get to ‘keep’ their clearance after they separate from military service or leave a cleared job. It’s important to note that at any time, a clearance is under the purview of the government. And what the government giveth, the government may take away. Policy dictates that a clearance is ‘current’ for a period of two years after leaving service. If you move out of a cleared job and into another within that period, your clearance can be easily reinstated – assuming your investigation hasn’t expired.
Periodic reinvestigation Problems
A major issue for many separating service members today is the significant backlog in periodic reinvestigations (PRs), along with budget issues for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A service member about ready to leave service today will find that in most cases, his or her security officer will not bother putting in the investigation – due to the time and cost involved. That means something that used to be a major hiring advantage (a current background investigation), no longer exists. That service member will need to find an employer willing to sponsor a new investigation – with the patience for the months long wait.
The good news is that if you’ve held a clearance in the past, you’ll be seen as ‘clearable’ by many employers. Consider including the date of your previous investigation on your resume.