Obtaining Security Clearance

Are All Security Clearances Equal?

Security clearances as Shakespeare – Is a security clearance by another agency as sweet?

Security clearance reciprocity is a question that comes up frequently at ClearanceJobs.com. Many professionals assume that if they have been cleared by one agency, their security clearance will readily transfer to another agency. This isn’t the case. While OPM conducts the vast majority of security clearance investigations, the three letter agencies conduct their own investigations, and others, including the Department of Homeland Security, make use of both OPM and outside contract investigation services.

How long it takes to process a security clearance is determined largely by how well an applicant fills out their SF-86, as well as their personal background (Foreign Influence, Financial Issues, and sheer stupidity will all delay a clearance determination). But the adjudication time will also depend on which agency is processing the security clearance.

Many defense contractors will find themselves being cleared by multiple agencies in their career, with varying degrees of ‘reciprocity’ involved in the process. Electronic records and the use of eQIP are designed to improve processing times and encourage reciprocity. But as the focus moves from timeliness to judiciousness, the push for reciprocity may move to the sidelines.

What has been your experience with investigations performed with different agencies? Have you had luck with reciprocity or faced a similar wait time as your initial clearance determination?

Comment Archive

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    This process will always suffer from being retrospective. No matter how much money and time spent on this, the Manning’s and Snowden’s of the world will slip through because future human behavior is almost unpredictable.

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    Good point Payne. Though, I think if security clearances are aimed at weeding out potential security threats I think there are some personality types to look at. And the way BI’s for security clearances are done now, doesn’t. I have read books on John Walker, Robert Hanssen, Aldrich Ames, et al. I have watched interviews with Snowden. They all have an obvious egocentric smugness. To uncover a potential threat you need to start incorporating brain scans, predictive behavior algorithms, et al. Your not going to uncover a security threat through the 98% administrative minutiae of OPM background investigations.

    Inv: You listed a prior investigation as being in March 1988, while the record shows it was in May 1988. You care to explain this gross discrepancy, pal?!

    Subj: Well, well,… [Subj stammers and starts speaking Russian like Kevin Costner’s character in “No Way Out”]… I guess my KGB employment background investigation was in May and I got confused.

    Inv: Okay, we’ll, we’ve got a problem here now, don’t we?! Because your case papers say during this time your were in the U.S. Navy. We can’t have overlapping employments. I don’t need another re-open, okay?!

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