Many ClearanceJobs readers hold DoD collateral (Secret or Top Secret) security clearances – some for decades without issue.  One day their employer puts them in for SCI access to work on a special project at an intelligence agency.  Suddenly they find themselves facing a security clearance denial, often for information that DoD has already favorably adjudicated.  They also discover the unfortunate reality that IC agencies march to a different drummer on their application of both due process and the adjudicative guidelines.

It’s a nasty surprise for those on the receiving end.

In many cases, the consequences of an SCI denial are limited to the time and expense of fighting it, the inability to work for that particular agency (until and unless the denial is overturned or sufficient time passes), and the requirement of listing that denial on future SF-86’s (unless overturned on appeal). Recently, however, we have discovered a glitch in the system with one particular agency: The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Technical Problems: Clearance Denied

For technical reasons that remain a mystery, NRO denials of SCI access are over-riding DoD collateral clearances in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS).  In other words, DoD CAF has been revoking DoD collateral clearances merely because NRO denied the clearance holder SCI access. It’s not supposed to work that way – and it doesn’t with any other agency.

Under Executive Order 10865, DoD contractors are entitled to administrative due process by DoD before DoD revokes a security clearance.  In rare cases, DoD can suspend a security clearance pending due process administration if the reason for the SCI denial is new information that is sufficiently serious.  However, in the cases we have encountered that is not the issue.  DoD CAF has been providing Facility Security Officer’s (FSO’s) with bad information when questioned on this – namely, claiming that an SCI denial “automatically” revokes a collateral security clearance and that there is only one unified process for fighting this (i.e. through the agency that denied the SCI access).

This is an extremely technical issue, but one of critical importance to anyone who has recently been denied SCI access by the National Reconnaissance Office and seen their DoD collateral clearance summarily disappear.  If that is you, understand that you are entitled to administrative due process from DoD – in addition to NRO – and you should not let anyone tell you otherwise.  After all, it’s your career on the line.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at