Security Clearance Process

An Overview of State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service

Like the Intelligence Community (IC) agencies, the Department of State processes their own background investigations and security clearances by using the personnel security resources from their Bureau of Diplomatic Security, specifically, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS also assist other federal agencies in processing their background investigations. According to the latest numbers posted by DSS, their in-house investigators and personnel security specialists process handle over 38,000 personnel security actions annually. The DSS handles all levels of investigation, to include low risk, public trust and national security. Their website provides a lot of useful information about their entire security clearance process, and they even made a YouTube video for applicants that provides clarity on common myths or questions about topics like marijuana use.

In a previous posting, I noted two things I personally have experienced with the DoS Personnel Security Program that are in need of improvement: 1) the lack of transparency in the adjudication process; 2) the failure to accept other agency investigations under reciprocity guidelines. From what I have seen, this has not improved. Other federal agencies don’t have access to the DSS system of record for investigations and clearances, and they don’t have access to other agency’s systems. This makes even simple classified visit requests to U.S. embassies very laborious and time consuming because the clearance information has to be sent manually via forms that are password protected and then emailed back and forth, hopefully to the correct point of contact.

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