What is derivative classification?

The National Archives describes derivative classification as “the incorporating, paraphrasing, restating, or generating in new form information that is already classified, and marking the newly developed material consistent with the classification markings that apply to the source information.”

Is every DCSA sub making their investigators complete Derivative Classification training again? Can anyone come up with a bigger waste of time considering we aren’t read into any classified info? Not only will we never use this training to classify anything, we will never even see anything that had been classified using this training. Remote interviews are being pushed to cut the backlog and then they want us to spend 1.5 hours redoing this training. SMH.

The training that the original poster is referring to is through the Center for Development of Security Excellence via DCSA. The course details the process of derivatively classifying national security information from a classification management standpoint. It outlines the methods and steps involved in derivatively classifying information, specifies approved sources for this process, and demonstrates how to utilize these sources by classifying information based on the principles of “contained in,” “revealed by,” and compilation. Additionally, the course covers the duties linked to derivatively classifying information, such as preventing over-classification, adhering to classification rules and boundaries, sharing information, addressing classification issues, and managing security incidents and penalties.

Feeling lost or is your head spinning about what derivative classification is? Former security clearance attorney, Sean Bigley, outlines some great practical examples of derivative classification here.

Per Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) Memorandum – Derivative Classification Training, dated 2019, this derivative classification training must be completed on an annual basis.

Most companies or organizations have annual trainings for cyber/IT, security, etc. It’s the nature of human work and it’s simple mistakes that have put these trainings as a requirement. Unfortunately, as this poster notes, sometimes training doesn’t directly apply to your position. But when it comes to the world of classified work, that argument is probably not going to get you out of spending hours on some form of security training on an annual basis.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, ClearanceJobs  maintains 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.

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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ 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! 🇺🇸