Security Clearance Process

IT Advances Could Speed Clearance Processing Times

ClearanceJobs founder and managing director Evan Lesser was recently interviewed by Federal Times about security clearance processing and progress. While dramatic improvements in processing times have been made in recent years and the security clearance program has been taken off the Government Accountability Office hot seat, there’s still a lot to be done.


A special thanks to our security clearance investigators who visit the site for your wealth of experience and feedback. There’s nothing quite like a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective on reform efforts and progress!

Comment Archive

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    Mr. Lesser,

    Thanks for representing our views.

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    The problem isn’t technology. other than a better spell check and maybe a self-populating program for addresses/locations constantly used. There is no way a tablet can work unless there is a check list, you just can’t take effective notes on one. In a prior life, I conducted investigative interviews via affidavit. During the subject interview, if we were allowed to type while doing the interview, much like the affidavit process, we could save a lot of time. I don’t see the need for that for source interviews though.

    The most time saving measures that could be made are, 1. a new handbook with uniform standards 2. a uniform code of report writing, getting rid of the negative reporting and focusing on only issue information. 3. getting serious with the pre-review, eliminating confusing case messages and extra garbage that only muddy the waters 4. having other parts of the organization deal with the things they are supposed to, i.e. non-cooperative employers and P.D.’s, I don’t have time to write an exegisis to an H.R. department or hunt down five different levels of managment and beg for a interview.

    That’s all I can think of right now.

    Thus endeth the sermon.

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    Taking notes on a tablet would be a pain. It would be nice if there was a checklist we could use and then with the power of technology we push a button and the information we mark on the checklist is converted into paragraph form that we submit as our ROI. The only problem then would be taking notes on the tablet for information about an issue because that info would still have to be written out.

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    My reporting requirements for one of my contracts has a checklist. A box only opens for clarificarion if there is an affirmative response. All negative responses are noted as a “no” and the report moved on. It is a-w-e-s-o-m-e (and OPM compliant)…

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    I simply don’t believe it. No way. No how.

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    Questioning on that contract makes sense, too. And source testimony needs no extra info beyond the basics, unless there is extra info to report. It is actually based on common sense. Jealous?

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    I think the reason that contract is so great is that the security office refuses to process anything with mistakes- they send the paperwork back for corrections. So by the time it hits the field, the case papers are pretty accurate.

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    Paperwork accurate!!!!!!!! How boring, I enjoy noting everyone’s info for them. Nothing better than a 3 hr typing session just to correct mistakes–keeps me sharp.

    I hate when someone does the SF 86 correctly.

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    I was thinking the same thing BW. I have the worst day when a SF 86 is filled out correctly.

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    A great help would be an OPM-FIS iPad app with all the useful info for field investigators boiled down a small notecard-sized box. In standard view these cards would collapse to just the Subj name, case number, case type, and ACD/CD. When you tap on the name the info box comes up with all the relevant info. You could organize each case in the order you want by moving these different case names/card boxes up or down in the queue– kind of like a iTunes playlist. As you are done with a case you can remove it by deleting it. This would give you all our case work in a form you can get your head around. Instead of the divide and conquer approach to work. Being able to move the cases around in a queue allows you to compensate for the dynamic and daily-changing case load.

    Also, another big help would be to be able to print a release in the field or be able to use a digital release for records. They have iPad docking scanners ( ) and I’m sure they will have (or already have), a small iPad-docking printer. This would allow you to do stuff on the fly instead of being limited to what you had planned to do that morning (or previous night) and printed out the releases for only those cases you thought you could get to.

    Lastly, immediately scrap the checking in and out of case material policy. It is asinine and reduces productivity. Hopefully there will be a radical transformation of technology which will make this last point a non-issue in the near future.

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    Actually, they now have Bluetooth/wireless printers so there is no need for the docking printer. If this job doesn’t go paperless than a slim Bluetooth printer, and the ability to print out a release from an iPad in the field, would be a big help.

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    I’ve resorted to using the most technologically sound piece of equipment—the human brain. I am now doing all reports by memory alone.

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    Im outsourcing my reports to India.

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    We see each day how inaccurate that piece of equipment is. I interview Ph.D. engineers and scientists and special agents everyday and I am amazed how terrible their recall ability is. People don’t remember in the way OPM– and therefore I– need them to remember. People remember in sweeping patterns and notable events in their life. They recall certain dates only if it corresponds to the birth of their child or a wedding or death.

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    A coworker of mine here in central VA was yelled at this morning by another Inv from Ft. Bragg about scheduling out sources for coverage at Ft. Bragg. The Ft. Bragg Inv accused her of not obtaining sources for Ft. Bragg at Ft. Lee where some of the sources are now located. The Ft. Bragg Inv accused my coworker of integrity violations. This coworker of mine was suspended for about 6 months a few years ago because a source she interviewed forgot they were interviewed when they received the re-interview letter.
    In my opinion Inv should never yell at other Inv and accuse them of integrity violations. If an Inv feels there might be an integrity violation they need to pass it on to their respective supervisor. We also have an integrity hot line we can contact anonymously.
    Very poor professionalism on the Ft. Bragg Inv part in my opinion.

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    I’ve resorted to using the most technologically sound piece of equipment—the human brain. I am now doing all reports by memory alone

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    I forgot I already said that. 🙂

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    This is a very frightening possibility, to be accused and suspended because a source forgot they were interviewed. On military bases or contractor facilities background investigations are so routine they lose track of who they are being interviewed about. Perhaps we should be required to have tracking smartphones that can track us to at least substantiate the fact we were at the location for 20 minutes at the date and time we said we were. Or maybe interview the first few words of the interview and the source speaking his or her name before shutting off the recorder. Interviews by telephone scare me. It is much easier to forget a phone interview if the source very busy life.

    I pray that I am able to find another job before the end of 2012.

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    Most times at resi’s, I note a distinguishing feature of the home, especially if I’m inside. A few years ago had someone say I wasn’t there. I noted several things in the yard, cause I knew this would be an issue. I noted a school teacher’s name from accross the street since we talked briefly. The man had some health issues. Worked like a champ considering my description was for a home in a different state than where I live/work. I was on a full-day trip. Most facilities have cameras, so be sure to help yourself if it goes wrong.

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    Dear Lord, we now have to note unique features to use for when our veracity is questioned?! I think I will start

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    I will start wearing a clown outfit to RESIs to be memorable to neighbors. In my I-note I’ll have to note out my failures. “Neighbor at residence across the street refused to open the door. Same with neighbors on both sides. Investigator believes this to be a coulrophobic neighborhood.”

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    Now that’s funny.

    Anytime someone mentions an integrity investigation, it scares the crap out of me. If all it takes is someone saying they don’t remember you, it seems like only a matter of time before that happens for any investigator.

    To add to the above tips, I ALWAYS make sure I sign the visitors log at any office building I visit. At least then if something comes up, there’s some kind of record that you were at least there.

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    Even something as minor as a source reporting another person present can scare the you-know-what out of you. I had that happen several years ago on a residential source. Thankfully I was able to recall the residence. I had interviewed the female half in the front hallway and the male half was sitting in the living room, completely uninvolved and unengaged in the conversation and too far away to hear the details. When questioned on a standard quality control recontact, she reported that her husband was also present for the interview. Technically he was in the same house… Present? I didn’t think so. Nothing ever came of it but still scary. This is my livelihood. I do my job to the best of my ability.

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    Here’s an idea–as soon as you enter a residence, start leaving your fingerprints on everything. Fingerprints never lie.

    Man, it is a sad state of affairs we work with sometimes.

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    What BW said is how my coworker was cleared. An OPM Agent interviewed the source and saw a few things in the house. When the agent interviewes my coworker she remembered various things in the house the agent also saw. What was the most frustrating was my co worker had no idea why she was suspended for about 4 to 5 months.

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    Oh man, just when I thought I couldn’t be more freaked out Contractor gives me something else to worry about. I always have untidy interviews at residences. Spouses walking through the room and the source will ask for corroboration on something. The spouse wasn’t really present in the interview. Do I need to i-note out every instance where there could be misinterpretation of the situation?

    What is the elapsed time period of re-interviews? Because forget about the source, I probably couldn’t recall the interview either– let alone specifics about the interiors of houses.

    A suggestion to reduce this problem (depressing nightmare) for investigators is to require there be two investigators at RESI item interviews.

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    Best solution is not to rely on any one source information. No different in criminal work. What one person recalls is never enough to go with.

    Also, due process would be nice, instead of dragging an innocent man/woman through the mud first.

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    Yeah, this whole thing could be a potential problem for my re-investigation.

    Investigator: “Tell me about these two organization you are a former member of. And why don’t you list your current residence?”

    Me: “Oh yeah, that, ha ha. Well, a source whom I interviewed didn’t recall me interviewing him. So I was being investigated for fabrication and fraud, and well, I wasn’t sure if they were going to send me to federal prison in Ohio, Aizona, or California. So, to cover all bases I joined the Aryan Brotherhood, he Mexican Mafia, the Bloods, and the Crips. But it turned out that OPM had sent the follow-up questionnaire to the ninety-year old father with dementia and not my source, his son, who shares the same name. So, when they discovered their error we all had a big laugh. And I got my investigator job back, quit those organizations, and have gone into hiding.”

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    Well it looks like my company is concerned about employee moral again. We received an e-mail today asking us to answer the following two questions:

    1.) How likely would you be to recommend USIS to a friend or relative as a place to work?
    2.)What is the likelihood that you will look for another job in the next 12 months?

    We will be asked to answer these questions at the beginning of every quarter. I went to the link for the questions and unfortunately we really don’t get to comment on the questions. It is a scale of 0 to 10 regarding the likeliness we would recommend USIS and then there is a drop down box with about 7 or so selections as to the primary reason we chose the number we did. same with the likelihood of leaving. We are only able to select a time frame if you are think of leaving, i.e. 1 to 2 months, 3 to 6 months and so on. Then there is a drop down box with 7 or so selections as to the primary reason we chose the answer we did.

    I have many reasons as to why I chose my responses. There needs to be a comment box for us to explain our answers.

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    AMEN Fed contractor, let us know how the outsourcing goes…
    And I am right there w/you above Investigator. I would have liked to add the comment ” there have been NO time allowances made for not being able to double dip on any items” Everything is taking twice as long, how many soldiers do we really need to say the guy was in Afghanistan for the past year…3?4?5? 2 to cover this “resi” and at least 1 for social and God help you if this guy just got back and it was his most recent duty station…

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    I do not understand how a tablet will be allowed with this job when so many places we go as investigators we can not even bring in cell phones.

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    Hi, I’m currently in the process to obtain a TS/SCI clearance. They just finished the process of interviewing my references and neighbors. Do you know how long before they call me for the poly?? Also, I’m a naturalized citizen (I’ve been in the US for 7 years). I know my process will take longer than normal (but I’m just 21 years old, I never have any record with the police, I don’t have any overdue debt, I’ve never left the country since I came here, I have very rare contact with foreign nationals – my foreign contact is only 7 people and among those 5 in living in the States), do you have any idea long my whole clearance process will take??? Thank you.