Scattered Castles and JPAS – Where Your Clearance Lives

Security Clearance

JPAS image

The Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) was conceived and developed in the 1990’s and eventually designated as THE Department of Defense (DoD) System of Record for DoD personnel and entities to record clearance eligibility determinations and access to classified information, up to and including Top Secret.  Scattered Castles is a database used by the Intelligence Community (IC) to record eligibility and accesses to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and other caveated programs.  These databases are distinctly different in many ways and are not connected.  It is essential for security personnel to know the differences and very valuable for candidates to understand them, as well.

JPAS is the system that DoD security personnel (primarily FSO’s) use daily for many actions.  Functionality includes verifying clearance eligibility, requesting initial and periodic investigations via eQIP, documenting granting access and debriefing employees, submitting incident reports regarding issues that could affect an individual’s eligibility, requesting eligibility upgrading or verification by the DoD Central Adjudication Facility (CAF), and documenting Non-Disclosure Agreement issuances, as well as in and out processing of employees.

The Intelligence Community Directory: Scattered Castles

Scattered Castles is a closed system with limited access for security personnel and does not electronically connect with JPAS.  Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 704.5 provides the authority and basic information regarding Scattered Castles.  I have never had access to Scattered Castles so I cannot comment on its functionality.  The primary reason that information contained in Scattered Castles is not transferred into JPAS is that Scattered Castles not only holds SCI eligibility and access information for military and contractor personnel, but also employees of the IC agencies.  That information would be of particular interest to foreign intelligence agencies and to allow this information to flow between systems would create an unacceptable risk.  As Mister Rogers would say, “Can you say hacking?”

Verifying SCI Eligibility

Some applicants/candidates tell human resources, recruiters and FSO’s that they have SCI eligibility/access and it shows in Scattered Castles.  Since non-IC personnel do not have access to verify the eligibility, additional effort is needed.  The first option for FSO’s to verify eligibility is to submit a request via JPAS to transfer the individual’s eligibility from Scattered Castles to JPAS.  Although the creation of the DoD CAF resulted in the relocation of some IC adjudicators to Fort Meade, the IC retained its independence from full consolidation.  But a process was supposed to be initiated wherein DoD CAF employees could contact the IC adjudicators and request eligibility verification without identifying specific personal information such as what IC agency the person was affiliated with or specific job title/duties.  The CAF employees would than add the eligibility into JPAS.  I have not had extensive experience in that situation to say that it works or not.  Perhaps that is a subject for future training classes by NCMS or ISAC.  Another source is to contact the DoD CAF Call Center for guidance.  If FSO’s are experienced (or lucky), they may have had previous contact with IC security or adjudicative personnel and a phone call may result in a verification.  A favorable result of this effort would still require a request via JPAS to the DoD CAF to transfer the eligibility into JPAS since DoD entities have been told that if the info is not in JPAS, you cannot give an individual access.

A word about the Office of Personnel Management (OPM):  OPM has a database called the Security Investigations Index (SII) with access available via JPAS.  The SII lists all investigations conducted by OPM and any clearance or suitability determinations that are reported to OPM.  At one time, this database was supposed to capture ALL federal clearance and suitability determinations and be a clearinghouse for such information.  Obviously, Scattered Castles will not “play” in this arrangement due to reasons previously detailed.  However, many determinations from non-DoD agencies are documented in the SII, such as Department of Homeland Security.  This is another source for FSO’s to at least verify whether investigations have been conducted and a reference to add into a request to the DoD CAF to update an individual’s eligibility.

William Loveridge is a Facility Security Officer, a security consultant, a retired DoD personnel security adjudicator and a retired US Army Reserve Warrant Officer.