Sad News: OPM hasn’t posted many updates on their progress in reducing their backlog. With the average time in 2016 for a Top Secret investigation at 220 days, you might be looking at another six months before you hear from an investigator. What to do while you wait? Ensure the data on your SF-86 maintains its shelf-life, think outside the parameters of the SF-86, and keep track of your hiring organization. Here are some ways to do it:
1. Review your social media activity
Last May, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed a policy directive allowing security investigators to review publicly available social media information. Take a few minutes (or hours) to review your postings, likes, comments, and those that mention you – not from your perspective, but through the lens of an investigator. That means opinions posted during the presidential election, other posts that are political in nature, or attention-grabbing opinions about the military….you get the idea. Am I suggesting your squash your right to free speech? No. Am I suggesting there may be a consequence to venting your every frustration in the social media domain? Yes, quite possibly. Be ready to discuss your activity with an investigator should you be asked. Meanwhile, consider this one word: mindfulness. And at the risk of being preachy, here’s another: restraint. Save a little just for you.
2. Monitor your credit report – all the time
OPM says accessing credit report data is “an integral part of almost all background investigations.” For a Top Secret investigation, consider it a given. There’s no telling when your credit report will be reviewed, so keeping track of activity is essential. Set up an alert to be notified when your credit score changes, and contact your credit reporting agency to clarify any surprises. Know that small actions might change your score. The 15% discount you scored on that spectacular area rug seems worth the effort of getting a store credit card. But when you see your credit score dip because you opened a new line of credit in the past 90 days, you might contemplate the true worth (or cost) of that discount.
3. Stay connected with your SF-86 references
Like many of us, you might keep in touch with most of your references about twice per year – to ask them if they’ll still serve as a reference, and in your holiday correspondence. The 220 + days it might take to get your clearance completed (or even underway) might mean you should check in more often. Let your references know about the delays. Ask occasionally if they’ve heard from an investigator. And if their contact information has changed since you completed your SF-86, get their updated information to the security manager who asked you to complete the SF-86.
4. get in touch with those who aren’t references, but may be contacted.
OPM readily admits that investigators speak to more people besides who you list on your SF-86 to achieve a “balanced and unbiased investigation.” Reach out to others in your broader circle so they’re aware of the possibility of being contacted.
5. Follow your hiring agency – patiently.
Different agencies often have different timelines. As ClearanceJobs.com’s own Ed Ledford reported about the CIA, “even by federal government standards, just getting your foot in the door seems to be a test of your personal determination and commitment to the agency.” There’s no guarantee your agency will push updates about your investigation to you, but they might provide one if you ask. If you get radio silence, setting a google alert for ‘security clearances update’ and your specific agency name may give you periodic insight.