Obtaining Security Clearance

How Much Does a Security Clearance Really Cost?

If you ask around the common perception seems to be that getting a security clearance costs sponsoring companies or agencies a lot of money – this is a case of perception not meshing with reality, however. The cost of investigations is published, with the average cost for OPM investigations at $1,230 per investigation.

The most significant and in many cases difficult to assess cost is in non-productive time while an employer waits for an employee’s clearance to be processed. It’s a key reason why already cleared personnel remain in demand – it’s because they’re easier, and cheaper, to get on the job quickly. That said, as processing time continues to decline even this cost is decreasing.

Read the full article on how much security clearances really cost here.

COMPARE:  Prices of OPM’s investigative products for Fiscal Year 2008.

Comment Archive

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    Do the factor the blood and sweat equity we put into each investigation?

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    It’s going to rise if a certain large contractor keeps missing OPM’s CD’s because they’re stacking up way too many cases.

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    Or the fact that sometimes I actually LOSE money when I conduct them? I guess I’m subsidizing some of them…

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    Do more with less!!!

    The mantra fot the next five years, get used to it.

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    Guess who just got another 2010 SF-86 ESI???

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    You guys still heading for a 45% workload pick-up? If close-hold, understood just thought I’d ask.

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    What affect has the change from SPINs to ESIs on NACLCs and ANACIs had on the time required to conduct the interviews and write them up. Are you developing a lot more previously unknown, significant derog during an ESI than you did during SPINs?

    Is OPM going to make a major price adjustment for ESIs this fall or are the investigative service providers going to make the investigators continue to eat the additional time it takes?

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    All SPINS have increased in time by probably an average of 300% and more. Required to explore all items now and in almost in 100% percent of my cases, I have to almost completely re-write their SF 86, due to their inattention or because of untrained security personnel. Had a simple use case last week, which old SPIN would have taken 15 mins max for me, turned into a 2.5 hour interview. You get the gist of what I mean and I’m sure the other inv’s will chime-in and confirm the same problems. I hear the cost will be the same, hence Fed’s work harder with less comment above.

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    ESIs on NACLCs and ANACIs are absolute nightmares. Every single one. Tons of developed information. Although much of the developed information doesn’t involved C or D level issues (the 3 years vs. 5 years issue downgrade rule helps), there are typically multiple A and B level issues in most cases.

    I haven’t had a single ESI under 1.5 hours and they typically take about 2 hours. Then there’s the time spent writing up the ROIs…for me they are averaging about 12,000 – 15,000 characters each. Most of my time is spent explaining why SUBJs didn’t fill out the form properly. Seems to be little to no review of the forms by security officers.

    Makes me wonder about the folks who currently hold SECRET…the people who were granted clearances prior to the ESI…and all the things that went unnoticed because they weren’t reported on the form.

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    PS –

    In the past, my employer typically used subcontractors to work SPINs. When the ESI came around, subcontractors wanted more money per case…and the company refused. Hence, most of the subcontractors in my local area quit. Now most of our SPINs are conducted by full timers. What a production killer!

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    BW, I don’t know what the OPM workload is. The upper-crust, Zawodny high tailed it out, probably didn’t get along with Miller but who knows.

    ESI’s now take forever, clean cases are about two hours. Lots off fixing little BS, like everyone else said.

    I can’t imagine what is going on with the Contractors, we’re (Feds) getting screwed on production with the ESI’s and it all falls on deaf ears. Offices are now under close watch, no more budget for training or travel and staffing levels are being lowered, although no one wants to admit it and thinks we can’t tell the writing on the wall.

    I can’t wait to see if the Super Committee deadlocks and triggers to defense spending are tripped. That should be a fun time.

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    I concur with the others. I used to beg for SPINS (talk about a great bang for the buck). But now, with all ESI’s being compensated the same, I can’t be bothered with the NACLC and ANACI cases due to the issues. Again, most of the time is spent re-doing the SF-86. Also, many of the issues that were known but not required to be discussed on the old SPINS now need to be addressed. My NACLC and ANACI ESI interviews take 1.5-2 hours on average and take a little longer than that to type- 12,000 to 17,000 characters on average.

    Given the re-bid in process, I think OPM will NOT be compensating more- too much competition for the 2.5 billion dollar contract. I am paring down my OPM work and only taking work where I am actually going to make money. I may need to find something else to do soon…

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    Was wondering–I have heard 2 stories, with the other being you guys are screwed and are at a 2-1 manning formula. We are no different, the contractor’s stats have been all but destroyed by all of this and it too falls on deaf ears–Bottom line is the all mighty dollar. I am exploring other opportunities and if things happen as I hope, I will be done with this work the next couple months (Knock on wood).

    Contractor–I hear ya and now is a good time to move-on IMO.

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    Blues Clues–any luck yet on the Adj work?

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    BW, haven’t heard either way. Good luck to us all!!!

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    Not only am I seeing horrendous developed information from expanded hybrid cases, I’m finding the Subjects of these investigations are far less cooperative. I even had someone on a hybrid say he had heard that his employees and others at his job site were probably not going to cooperate if contacted by an investigator. That, as we know, sets up a whole other set of issues we have to deal with.

    Back in the day, I used to absolutely dread having to do a full SSBI and used to worry about obtaining social coverage and closing gaps. Now I beg for them because at least 99% of those Subjects know the drill and are willing to help. It also seems as though derogatory information is less likely to be developed during an SSBI.

    I’d love to see the number of people with secret clearances who are denied because of the issues they are confronted with and those which are developed.

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    BW –

    No luck yet…but the DISCO ad closes on Monday…hopefully I’ll hear something good in a week or two.

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    Tired Investigator –

    “Far less cooperative” is a great way to describe many of my hybrid ESI SUBJs. I’ve started noting in my ROIs the number of times (and at what stages of the interview) I reminded SUBJs that refusal to answer questions could affect how their investigations are adjudicated.

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    I do not even continue talking to anyone uncooperative–I could care less if they play along, I have a job. I am not well known for my political correctness you might say 🙂

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    Blues Clues

    Good luck.

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    I have no problems walking out the door when they’re not cooperative. Not a problem at all.

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    BW –

    Thanks. Got my fingers crossed!

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    Speaking of non-cooperation, I got tossed from a business today after showing up and requesting an employment file review.

    I was told that they did not have time to deal with it right now and that I need to make an appointment. I replied that I would be more than happy to make an appointment and asked what day I should return?

    They then told me that they needed to verify who I was and that I would have to request the files by fax.

    I asked how they were going to verify who I was? They said by the letterhead.

    I asked if that they would be more comfortable with letterhead than with by badge/creds? I even offered the investigator verifier number.

    They said no, they wanted letterhead.

    What the F*ck?

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    @ Fed Investigator,
    Your situation made me laugh and then shake my head. Some people are so stupid.

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    I mad a bunch of fake letterhead for just such occasions–let me know if you need some.

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    I’m slowly seeing a trend towards the old days of reporting, where every item from the SF 86 is addressed in the report. I hope I’m wrong on this.

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    Thanks BW, I’ve got a stack myself. I can’t wait until they don’t respond and I get to show up again. You bet I’ll have a big smile on my face.

    As far as the ROI’s, I agree, plus now we get to cover crap from 30 years ago. Wee-hee.

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    my sister keeps asking me for my physical address and i will not provide it. i give her my p.o. box. she said she needs it for her special security clearance application. ive never had a good relationship with her and the last time she had my address i was accused and investigated and cleared bt something she tried to have me arrested over. i do not trust her. do i have to give her my address?

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    I know this is off subject, but the conversation thread seems to be already there…:-) So…

    What pointers can you give to a potential rookie BI?


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    If you are the type of person who feels they have to master their job with in a few months this job is not for you. It takes most new investigators a year to a year an a half to feel comfortable with this job.
    The other advice I will give you is what I told all of the new investigators I trained when I did my detail to our training department.

    Communication, Organization, Professionalism, Self Discpline and Flexibity.

    If you have these you will be a good investigator. I am sure some of the other posters will have some other thoughts as well. I wish you the best.

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    Work on your resume writing and run away, especially if you are young.

    In all seriousness, just learn to let things roll off your back. This will save you from snapping and worrying.

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    Hey guys. I introduced myself in an old thread a while back but haven’t been keeping up much lately. I enjoy reading the site when I am able.

    BW and Investigator,

    I wasn’t around in the “old days” but it’s interesting that you mention that things seem to be moving toward reporting every single item. I haven’t every really noticed it, but after reading your thoughts I definitely agree. Seems like with all of the changes requiring extra sentences and disclaimers that seem to come out every so often things are certainly moving in that direction.

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    Hmm…is the job really that bad?

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    Not a bad job for the right person. You’ll either love it or hate it!!

    Just remember, it’s not a 9 to 5 job, nights and weekends are a must! If you have the mindset that you will only work 9 to 5, you will be miserable and fail.

    Also remember that different supervisors will want different styles of reporting from you, go with it, don’t fight it and you’ll be much happier!

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    Very Special Investigator–love the moniker.

    It is slowly creeping in. I have noticed OPM reviewers slowly re-opening cases for this info even before putting out guidance. These changes make for a long PRSI/ESI reporting cycle. If it happens, you can expect at least another hour type time once you get the hang of it.

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    This job changes daily. Fed’s advice is sound. I have never argued anything. I just change what they ask for and give them what they want and they go away. I see no reason to argue for 3 days, when I can add/change/delete something in 3-5 mins.

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    “Just remember, it’s not a 9 to 5 job, nights and weekends are a must”

    Not unless you work for a certain contractor whose management tells you that if you ‘donate’ your time, you could be subjected to termination.

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    I hate my job as a contract OPM BI. That said, I will offer only positive advice because that is the first and most important thing, namely, to be positive and constantly work to eliminate negative thoughts. I would add that while self-discipline is key, it is important to find ways to stay motivated. The job, per se, won’t provide any motivation. It is also important to compartmentalize and to temper your analytical/intellectual side. Compete with yourself. Plan ahead to knock out as many units as possible in a day. Write up the reports as soon as possible. Handle re-opens that day if possible. Develop the action habit. Develop the enthusiasm habit. Don’t think about the past, don’t think about the future, just think about the day and work at hand.

    “There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.”
    –Vince Lombardi

    “Success demands singleness of purpose.”
    –Vince Lombardi

    “Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it- his mind, his body and his heart- what is life worth to him? If I were a salesman, I would make this commitment to my company, to the product and most of all, to myself.”
    –Vince Lombardi

    “Brethren: Don’t you know that while all the runners in the stadium take part in the race, only one wins the prize. Run to win.”
    –St. Paul (Lombardi’s favorite scripture passage)

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    Blues Clues,

    Sounds like Mantech may be involved in Adjudications or trying to–take a look. It’s not MSM Side from what I can tell

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    BW –

    Unfortunately, ManTech (along with what seems like every other adjudications contractor on the planet) requires an active TS at minimum. My current, favorably adjudicated SSBI-PR doesn’t measure up.

    But thanks for the heads up. Good looking out.

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    Concerned sister, why are you so concerned? If it were me and my sister had me, “accused and investigated and cleared bt something she tried to have me arrested over,” I wouldn’t even answer her phone calls.

    I must say though, I find your statement odd, to say the least.

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    I’ve got a multifaceted question for anyone that might know.

    First, what happens in the final stages of adjudication? I assume that whatever adjudication that’s done by contractors is turned over to the security office of the sponsoring agency for final approval? Is this correct? Does the security office then review then entire ROI and adjudication (I would assume yes) before deciding pass/fail?

    Next, if information is developed during the investigation that is a clear violation of agency rules and/or may have resulted in subject being hired, will the office inform the subject’s superiors and/or take any action other than simply ruling on the investigation?

    Basically, I’m wondering what steps beyond a simple/pass fail decision that an agency security office might take in the presence of major issues.

    Here are two general examples from recent experience.
    1) Subject in the military discloses drug use information during ESI that they did not previously disclose when filling out paperwork to enter active duty because they weren’t sure what would happen.

    2) Investigation develops guilty plea to a misdemeanor more than 10 years ago not related to alcohol/drugs. Subject is a registered sex offender as a result. His employer does not know. In this example I’m thinking that while subject may not have been required to disclose his issues at the time of his hiring, he may not have been hired if his employer had known.

    Recently, I’ve had a few subjects with serious issues ask me after an ESI if they’re employer would find out about their issues, and I wasn’t really sure what to tell them.


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    Very Special

    I can assure you the military does not find out. I am a 20 year retired military investigator. If I had found this, I could have pursued fradulant enlistment, but these days it wouldn’t gain alot of traction.

    I have never heard of any case info getting to one’s employer either.

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    Very Special Investigator:

    A couple of years ago the Army Central Clearance Facility (CCF) augmented their staff with about 100 contractor personnel for about a year. The contractor personnel went through the basic adjudication course. They reviewed many of the cases first, briefed the cases, and made written recommendations. The cases were then turned over to Army CCF adjudicators for a decision.

    For federal employees/federal employment applicants, the results of the background investigation are reviewed by the federal agency’s Human Resources office for an employment suitability determination. This usually occurs before the case is adjudicated for a security clearance. I believe the investigative results can be reviewed by the selecting official (a non-HR person) for his/her recommendation.

    Situation 1: Depends on the service. In especially egregious cases I’ve seen AFCAF defer adjudication, send then entire case file to the Subject’s Commanding Officer (Squadron CO). The CO had to make a decision whether to retain the airman (usually an IET) or process him/her for a discharge for fraudulent enlistment. Sometimes if the airman really offended the CO’s sensibilities, the CO pursued a court martial. If the CO wanted to retain the airman the case was sent back to AFCAF for adjudication.

    Situation 2: Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of investigative information, except to certain federal agencies. Potential for blackmail would have to be resolved/mitigated for your Subject to get a clearance. The Central Adjudication Facility might require Subject to disclose the information to his employer in order to fully mitigate the potential for blackmail.

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    Thank you all for the information. What kind of hours do you typically work? Are there a lot of nights and weekends as part of a background investigator?

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    Jason, most of the work is done during normal business hours but you have to be flexible. Some people can’t meet you during their working hours, so guess where that leaves you? If you have a number of residences to complete, it may be easier to get them done on one saturday as opposed to multiple attempts during the week. I’ve found most neighbors are not at home during normal business hours anyway.

    Not to mention the report writing. Consider report writing like homework after school. Are you the type to get it done every day or do you leave it all for when it’s due and procrastinate? If you are the latter, you’re going to have problems, big problems. Cases blow up in your face all the time and if you don’t have some time cushion built in, you will screw yourself.

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    Fed is dead-on. I am a procrastinator and at times let things pile-up, but it is bad business. I’m OK because I’ve been doing this a while and have been writing these type reports for 28 years now. I teach new folks to work the field efficiently for about 5 solid hours a day and spend the next 3 at home typing and doing admin work. This helps maintain a work-life balance. This is not always possible, but try a balanced approach or you will be working off the clock for free. There is alot of experience on here, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

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    Social sources, social sources, social sources. That is all our review team is asking for. We have to put disclaimers in every social source ROI if they can not provide additional social sources. I have started asking all sources if they can provide social sources for SJ’s and if not I will add the disclaimer.
    On a better note, my company finally has gotten away from the ridiculous ACDs. The consulting company they brought in told them investigators could not handle the stress of completing an BI type ESI or SPIN type ESI in 5 to 7 days including the two days over the weekend. We are back to three and four week ACDs. I wonder how much money my company spent to figure that out when every single investigator had been telling them this the whole time.

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    How was the trembles–did they hit you?

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    They were pretty strong. The epicenter is about a 30 min drive from my house. There have been some aftershocks.

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    Glad to hear no problems.

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    Some investigators reserve one day for administrative work and reports. Others do a day of field work then the next day work on reports and admin work.

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    Good points, I do it on some occasions as well.

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    I was requested for a second round of questioning for my TS (I am assuming a SPIN or ESI?) To discuss a residence verification. What should I expect? Will I be questioned about other things beside the residence question? A little nervous…

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    Do you have anything to be nervous about? No? Then stop worrying!

    Although most of us background investigators have been on the job for many years we aren’t perfect. Example: while I’m typing up a subject’s testimony I might realize that I failed to ask a required question…or somehow failed to put 2 and 2 together…resulting in the need for additional information from the subject in order to produce a complete and accurate report of investigation.

    OPM requires most subject re-contacts to be conducted in person. Don’t sweat it.

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    I worked for a subcontractor on a Mount. Weather sight back in the early 80s
    I’m interested in getting back into it again. I can’t remember who the company was?
    Would anyone on here know how I could get back my clearance to go back to work?
    I’d like to work on > one of today’s mil. Projects?