The new Defense Information System for Security (DISS) was trumpeted by personnel security officials as a fix-all for its outdated, glitchy predecessor the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS).  Had it worked as promised, it just might have accomplished that objective. Unfortunately, numerous sources within government have confirmed that the rollout of DISS – now two years in the making – has been anything but smooth. What was supposed to replace JPAS wound-up effectively supplementing it due to systemic technical problems. Even more unbelievable is that this taxpayer-funded boondoggle has entirely failed to address some of the most glaring problems with its predecessor system.

One of those problems, which wasn’t exactly a secret within the personnel security community, is that denials and revocations of SCI access by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) have been overriding valid collateral (Top Secret or Secret) clearances in JPAS for DoD contractors. This may seem like a highly technical and unusual issue, but the problem has arisen over the years with sufficient frequency and to such devastating impact that any DoD clearance holder contemplating applying for SCI access with NRO should know about it.

SCI Application = Secret Denial

In short, DoD contractors with a valid Top Secret or Secret clearance have applied for SCI access at NRO, had that access denied or revoked, and then seen their Top Secret or Secret clearance also purportedly revoked in JPAS simultaneously, automatically, and without any of the administrative due process rights afforded to them under DoD Directive 5220.6.

Those rights, which are far more robust than the limited appeal rights granted by NRO, can make a substantial difference in case outcome. They aren’t waived simply because another agency like NRO declines to grant or continue SCI access, but that has effectively been happening for years now due to apparent bureaucratic apathy.

I’ve written about this issue previously, but to little apparent impact. From what we are told, the problem is that JPAS (and now DISS) lacks the functionality required to display a denial of SCI by one agency and a valid collateral eligibility determination by another agency. The result is that a denial or revocation of SCI access by NRO appears to override the favorable collateral eligibility determination, causing Facility Security Officers to panic and read-out or terminate the employment of those with a perfectly good collateral security clearance.

Oddly, this seems to be an NRO-only problem: other agencies like NSA have managed to figure out a work-around within JPAS.  What, precisely, that workaround is has never been entirely clear – either to this author or those within government who have looked at the problem.  What is clear, however, is that the problems and confusion persist, and the “DISS-astrous” rollout of DISS has done nothing yet to solve them.


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