A position of public trust is – surprisingly for most – not the same thing as a security clearance. But public trust investigations comprise more than half of the investigations mission at DCSA and involve a process of automated checks very similar to that of a Secret clearance investigation. And because public trust positions often work alongside positions of higher eligibility, the questions about the process can come up almost as much.

I’ve had a public trust since 2014. I started a new job and had to go through the process from the beginning in 2018. I thought they lasted 5 years. A couple weeks ago, got an email from management that many folks were temporarily removed from the roster due to our company missing a deadline for reinvestigations. So, I had to start over again. On the question “have you had a clearance denied or revoked” they told me to indicate “no”. But I don’t understand – I can’t work until the reinvestigation is done. Should I worry or is this normal? I had nothing new to report.

That issue points to the broader issue of suitability and public trust determinations – reciprocity for suitability is as important as reciprocity for security clearance determinations.

For public trust designated positions, adjudicating agencies should ensure that reinvestigations are performed every five years unless there is a change in the contract/position’s risk level. Technically, you haven’t had a security clearance denied or revoked, so indicating no on the SF-85P when it asks about clearance denials is correct. The question on the form reads: “Have you EVER had a security clearance eligibility/access authorization denied, suspended, or revoked? (Note: An administrative downgrade or administrative termination of a security clearance is not a revocation.)”

Public trust investigations can take anywhere from a few days to over a year depending on the level, applicant’s background, or priority. If nothing in your background has changed and your contractor is able to keep in close contact with the adjudicating agency, it could be on the quicker end.

According to OPM, “Under title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, part 731 (5 CFR 731) OPM and agencies with delegated authority, can make suitability determinations and take suitability actions in cases involving covered positions that are subject to investigation.”

Click here to find other general information regarding positions of public trust and the different background investigations associated.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” For this reason, we maintain ClearanceJobsBlog.com – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site. 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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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ 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! 🇺🇸