Being stuck at home for the past year has left a whole lot of people, this author included, yearning for a vacation. Not a weekend in Vegas or a few days camping, but a full-blown, get-out-your-passport break from what seems like an increasingly mundane existence. If a couple weeks in Europe, a month of surfing in Costa Rica, or a week of partying in Mexico is at the top of your summer to-do list, parsing dry government publications is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Remember, however, that as a security-clearance holder your obligation to protect classified information requires a bit of added effort on your part before saying a temporary “adios” to the homeland.

What SEAD-3 Has to Say About Your Vacation Plans

I’m referring specifically to Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD)-3, an order by the Director of National Intelligence that applies to security clearance-holders government wide. The Directive requires, in pertinent part, that all security clearance-holders – no matter their level of clearance – submit an itinerary for unofficial foreign travel, in advance of said travel, to their agency head or designee (typically a security official). The traveler must obtain approval prior to departure, with the following exceptions:

  • Travel to Puerto Rico, Guam, or other U.S. territories is not considered foreign travel and need not be reported
  • Unplanned day trips to Canada or Mexico may be reported upon return – but within 5 days thereof
  • Emergency circumstances, in which case the traveler shall, at minimum, advise their supervisor and preferably a security official verbally in advance of the travel
  • Where an agency head has determined that the traveler is a person or falls within a class of persons who require less specific reporting by reason of their job duties

A couple of other pertinent points to note are that cleared travelers may be required by their agency to participate in a pre-travel defensive security and counterintelligence briefing; and that unofficial foreign travel requests may be disapproved by an agency when it is determined that the travel poses an unacceptable risk to national security.

In other words, you can probably forget about a sightseeing trip to Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Somalia, Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and a few other off-beat places – if any of those destinations happen to strike your fancy.

Better to Ask for Permission – Not Beg Forgiveness

All of this catches some clearance-holders by surprise. The Directive has not been well-publicized to the workforce at a number of federal agencies, despite the fact that it has been government policy since its issuance in June 2017. Even some security managers seem blissfully unaware that they are supposed to be receiving pre-travel itineraries from employees under their purview.

If your security manager happens to be one of the ill-informed, this is not a scenario where its better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission. Instead, ask for permission – in writing – unless he or she is willing to preserve their non-compliance instructions to you for posterity in similar fashion. Without a paper trail, you’re setting yourself up to be the fall guy or girl when your security manager eventually wises-up to their responsibilities.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 



Related News

Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit