Having trouble getting an interim security clearance? You’re not alone. Interim security clearances were once the key way for new clearance applicants to get on the job quickly. Today your interim security clearance may have you playing a long game of wait and see.

The Defense Security Service website offers this encouraging description for security clearance applicants, “An interim eligibility is usually granted within five days after the clearance application is submitted. An interim eligibility will permit the individual to have access to most of the classified information needed to perform his or her duties. The interim eligibility is made concurrently with the initiation of the investigation and will generally remain in effect until an investigation is completed, at which time the applicant is considered for a final eligibility.”

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘what? I’ve been waiting for more than a month for my interim?!’ you’re a part of the new normal – not the DSS ideal. A popular thread on the ClearanceJobs forum asks applicants how long their interim security clearance determination is taking. What used to take place in a matter of days is now taking months, according to applicant feedback.

Want a Decision? NAC Needed.

“In mid-August PSMO-I…will no longer grant interims based on the review of the SF-86. Instead, they will wait for the results of the Advanced National Agency Check (NAC) to come back before making a decision,” writes Marko Hakamaa over at the Security Clearance Forum. “As I have noted previously, one of the checks that have held up the completion of investigations is the FBI name check which is submitted as a part of the NAC. PSMO-I are aware of this issue and have decided the name check portion of the NAC will only be required if there is a hit on the NAC. With this change PSMO-I anticipates that it will take an average of 35 days to get an Interim Secret security clearance.”

On July 6 DSS published an update to its website that noted it created a daily limit on the number of cases submitted to the Office of Personnel Management. This was done as a part of its budget authority, in an effort to save money. The announcement noted that DSS recently received additional Personnel Security Investigations for Industry (PSI-I) funding, and it will begin processing all PSI-I requests. This should improve timelines for both final adjudication and reinvestigations.

Who grants interim security clearances?

“OPM doesn’t grant interim security clearances or final clearances (except to OPM employees and investigative personnel),” notes William Henderson, security clearance consultant and owner of FEDCAS. For most DOD contractor personnel it’s DSS’s Personnel Security Management Office for Industry (PSMO-I) that grants interim clearances.  For federal employees and federal employment candidates there are hundreds of offices that have authority to grant interim clearances–probably several hundred if you count the military.”

So, if you were hoping to blame OPM for your security clearance woes, you’ll have to redirect your energy.

How Long will it take to eliminate the backlog?

It took DSS months to build up a backlog of 20,000-30,000 pending investigations, and it will likely take them months to get out of it. The PSMO-I reviews the Questionnaire for National Security Position (SF 86) and other files and systems before making a determination on interim access.

How Can I Speed Up My Application?

It’s important to note that the criteria for granting an interim clearance are more strict than a final clearance determination. You may be denied an interim security clearance and still have a very good chance of getting your final clearance. But in a world where interim clearance applications are taking weeks, you may not have the extra months to wait for a final security clearance determination. DSS warns that financial considerations, drug involvement and criminal conduct all negatively impact your chances at an interim clearance. It recommends mitigating these issues on your application (by noting passage of time, anomaly or causality behind behavior) and being as complete as possible with your paperwork. Read this article for more information on speeding up the security clearance process.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer