If you’re applying for a security clearance you may feel desperate for information about your status. But there’s one letter no one wants while waiting to obtaining a security clearance: a Statement of Reasons. What is a Statement of Reasons (SOR)? A SOR is the justification for denying an applicant a security clearance. The SOR will list security concerns based on the 13 adjudicative criteria buts provides the individual an opportunity to appeal the decision.

A subscriber to the ClearanceJobsBlog was interested to know if anyone commenting had received a favorable decision to a written response to a security clearance denial, specifically with the Central Intelligence Agency, and asked how long it took after submitting the written appeal.

RESPONDING TO A Security Clearance Denial

When adjudicators have enough information to make a decision on granting or denying a clearance, they either approve the clearance or write a security clearance denial explaining why issuing a clearance is not “clearly consistent with the interests of national security.”  The denial must provide “as comprehensive and detailed a written explanation of the basis for that conclusion as the national security interest of the United States and other applicable law permit.”

While the vast majority of security clearances are denied using a SOR, which is a notice of the intent to deny a security clearance. For those applying within the intelligence community, however, a Letter of Denial is issued rather than a SOR. It’s a sterner approach than the DoD’s security clearance process, and why many applicants who run into clearance issues with the IC report significant struggles in receiving a favorable security clearance.

BEST PRACTICES for responding to security clearance denial

When responding to any security clearance denial, you want to be sure all boxes are checked, and any response is timely and thorough. To ensure the best outcome, applicants can:

  1. Be timely
  2. Understand the denial fully.
  3. Mitigate, confirm or deny each fact in the denial.
  4. Rely on the facts, and avoid emotional responses.
  5. Ask for assistance from a security clearance attorney.

AGENCY SPECIFIC Security clearance denials

As always with the security clearance process, ‘it depends’ enters the conversation. One commenter on the blog (ClearanceJobs news contributor William Henderson) informs the original poster that “At CIA, it can take over a year. At DOD CAF, it depends on the Division. Division C, which includes US Navy and others, has been the fastest at about 60 to 90 days, but recently, I’ve had one stuck there for more than 90 days. DOHA takes about 60 to 120 days, but SOR responses on collateral DOD contractor cases usually get referred to a DOHA judge rather having the SOR withdrawn by the DOHA Chief Department Counsel.”

cia application process: Slow and slower

One commenter noted that even receiving a letter from denial from the CIA is a step better than in previous years – when candidates with security issues would simply be punted from the process entirely. Responding to a letter of denial is an opportunity to stick with the process – but applicants shouldn’t expect a timely response. While the CIA states that denials are processed in the order received, the length of time applications languish indicates that’s not the case.

“The CIA is tied only with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in terms of delay,” said security clearance attorney and ClearanceJobs contributor Sean Bigley. “At both places it takes an average of two-to-three years for adjudication of a first level appeal or a first SOR response.”

So, if you’re unsuccessful at this first level and opt to appeal to the agency’s Personnel Security Appeals Board, you might expect another two to three year delay. Bigley notes, “All in, it is very common that an applicant who avails him/herself of both levels of appeal will wait five years before receiving a final decision.”


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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸