The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) conducts more than 95% of all background investigations. Agencies that use DCSA to conduct their investigations will pay DCSA, and each year it updates the cost to conduct an investigation. For FY 2022/23, costs actually went down by 3%. A Tier 5 (Top Secret) clearance investigation costs $5,410, and a Tier 3 (Secret) investigation costs $420. DCSA also updated the cost for taking advantage of its continuous vetting services, so agencies can be in compliance with the Trusted Workforce 2.0 reform effort. Enrollment in the Trusted Workforce 1.25 solution can be obtained for just $3.00, or $36 annually.  

Many individuals ask if they can pay for a security clearance themselves, but the federal government is the only one fronting the costs for obtaining a security clearance. Even government contractors don’t pay for the cost of the background investigations for the personnel they employ. While there has been debate in the past about making contractors pay for their own security clearances, the consensus has largely been that making contractors pay for security clearances would create disparity between large and smaller contractors. That means for now, the federal government is the only one fronting security clearance costs.

 Security Clearance Background Investigation Costs FY 2022/2023

Investigation Type Standard Priority
National Agency Check $140 N/A
Tier 1 (non-sensitive low risk) $180 N/A
Tier 2 (moderate risk public trust) $420 $455
Tier 2R (reinvestigation) $380 $410
Tier 3 (non-critical sensitive – Secret) $420 N/A
Tier 3R (reinvestigation) $380 N/A
Tier 4 (high risk public trust) $4,095 $4,425
Tier 4R (reinvestigation) $2,530 $2,730
Tier 5 (critical and special sensitive (TS and SCI) $5,410 $5,845
Tier 5R (reinvestigation) $2,965 $3,200

The Cost Breakdown of a Background Investigation

Why are Top Secret security clearance investigations so much more expensive to conduct? The amount of field work required is much more extensive. While a Secret clearance can largely be completed with use of automated checks, a Top Secret security clearance requires verifying a large number of references and a lot more field work. That investigator time costs money, and is born out of higher investigation costs.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer