Congratulations, you are now a cleared employee. The government has made the decision to grant your security clearance and you are now eligible to work on classified contracts. This privilege comes with a huge responsibility for you to both continue to conduct yourself in line with the adjudicative guidelines protecting your eligibility as well as protecting the classified information under your charge from unauthorized access. The standards as to which you were adjudicated is what will also be measured to ensure you remain eligible to maintain your security clearance. Newly cleared contractors today should anticipate being enrolled in a continuous vetting program, as well.

Once you receive your security clearance, your Facility Security Officer (FSO) will begin to inject you into the enterprise security program designed to protect classified information. This security plan is both overarching in application, as well as tailored to the specific contractual requirements provided by the government contracting agency or the prime contractor. This is a flowed down requirement and is applied when the government or prime contractor awards a classified contract to a cleared contractor or cleared subcontractor and the requirements are flowed down to the lowest tiered contractor. They specify the highest level of classified information you will have access to and any required or special safeguarding methods. This security guidance is addressed in a document called Contract Security Classification Specification or DD Form 254 and is provided to identify the type of classified work you as a cleared employee are expected to perform, the classification level of the work to be performed and how the classified information should be protected while under your control.

The classified information you access could come in various forms and media. It could be hardcopy print material, reside on a computer, be in a software or hardware format, reside on a drive or removable platform or be a piece of machinery, vehicle or something else. It is important for your career, job security and national security that you understand what is expected of you while you have access to and possess the classified information in whatever format it exists. If you cause the unauthorized release of classified information, you can contribute to various levels of damage to national security. It is critical that you make it your business to pay attention to training and briefings so that you understand how to execute those duties and continue to enjoy your newfound privilege.

You will need to sign agreements, briefings and attend training that will address your responsibilities. The FSO will provide the SF-312, Non Disclosure Agreement. This briefing and your signature of agreement and understanding are required before you can enjoy access to classified information.

With your newfound privilege, you can begin performing on classified contracts. Your FSO and supervisor will guide you through the next steps. Your job is to learn and apply all that they will teach you concerning your performance on and protection of classified information. Procedures vary based on the type of information (digital or physical), your office location (are you in a SCIF or sensitive facility?) and other factors. Don’t assume you know the procedure until you’ve been trained or informed. The next articles in this series will take you through the training and responsibilities you should be aware of. Are you ready?

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Jeffrey W. Bennett is a security consultant with SFPC, SAPPC, ISOC, ISP certifications. He maintains a security blog and newsletter and is the author of many security books including DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook-What Cleared Contractors Need to Know About Their Need to Know, The Insider’s Guide to Security Clearances, and books on security certification. Visit his website www.redbikepublishing.com for more information.