Obtaining Security Clearance

State Department Interns Wait and Wait For Security Clearance

The security clearance process that is painfully slow at the State Department. For entry level employees at the State Department, especially interns, start dates are moved back waiting for a security clearance.

In most cases, the State Department outsources investigations to contractors, however, when an applicant has lived or traveled extensively overseas, Diplomatic Security takes over the investigation.  The State Department processes 25,000 clearance cases a year and in 3Q of this year, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security needed an average of 54 days to issue entry-level clearances, down from 64 days in 2008.

In addition, the article airs allegations made by the group called Concerned Foreign Service Officers regarding State Department investigators of sometimes practicing ethnic and religious profiling, resulting from insufficient internal checks.

Follow-up: A blog on Foreign Policy published reactions from former State Department interns on this issue.

Quote of the day: “With the clearance process, as an applicant, you don’t know anything…” – State Department would-be intern.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    This question does not relate to this blog topic, but I really need some advice. I also posted this question under the previous blog entry.

    I have a question regarding a recent interim clearance I was granted. The position I just accepted and started with the federal government requires a Secret Level security clearance. I was granted my interim level security clearance and just began work this week. Unfortunately, over the past weekend (after my interim clearance had already been granted) I was arrested for DUI.

    My question is, will this arrest prohibit me from obtaining an actual Secret Level security clearance? It is the only blemish of any kind on my record and I might be able to get it expunged after my court date in October. Also, should I tell someone about the arrest or should I just assume that they’ll find out about it and address it at that point? If I do decide to tell someone, should I at least wait until after my trial so I can tell them the outcome? I’m not sure who I would tell if that is the proper course of action; I haven’t had an interview with an investigator yet, so I’m assuming that would be the best time to bring it up?

    I made a terribly stupid mistake and I’m nervous that it’s going to cost me this job that I worked really hard to get. If I do tell someone soon, what should I add to the details of the case to make it clear that I am very serious that this will be my first and only blemish of this kind on my record? Any honest assessment and advice would be very much appreciated.


  2. Avatar

    I did an internship with the Diplomatic Security Service when I was in college. I was lucky my investigation did not take to long since I had not traveled out of the country. It was the best internship ever. I wanted to work for them but I got married and that changed everything.

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    I’ll tell you the DoS is slow. They have usually 1-2 invs in an area, which are mostly contractors guided by the DoS, so no blame on contractor’s. As far as their agents feeling above the checks, I suppose sitting at a desk in an embassy takes precedence since most of the PROTECTIVE work is outsourced to contractors.

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    Clinton getting mad at USAID over checks. USAID has recently began awarding work for backgrounds to contractors. I guess even our Fed Govt has no idea almost everything is outsourced to us no good contractors. I forsee the Govt trying to take it all back, but that would be a HUGE mistake. Funny how nobody does nothing to address the problem, yet they feel compelled to whine about it all.

  5. Avatar

    . . . “the Bureau of Diplomatic Security needed an average of 54 days to issue entry-level clearances, down from 64 days in 2008.”

    I assume by “entry level” they mean a final Secret clearance.

    It’s amazing that someone perceives a 54-day average turnaround as a problem. I guess we live in an instant gratification society.

  6. Avatar

    The process was actually quite fast for me. My problem is I can’t use my clearance for some reason.

    Last fall I was selected as an alternate candidate for the State Department Internship program. As such, they proceeded to grant me an interim TS clearance and a later a final full TS clearance (as informed by emails from the security program office). I was never actually selected as an intern so I never used the TS clearance.

    Since my clearance was apparently fully adjudicated, is there any way I can still use it? Several companies have been interested in me but they say they don’t see a TS clearance in JPAS. If I really did at one point receive a TS clearance after an SSBI, shouldn’t that SSBI still be available in JPAS and since it’s been less than two years, shouldn’t it still be usable?

  7. Avatar

    JPAS is a DOD system that only contains records of investigations and clearance on military, DOD civilians, and DOD contracts. State Department is supposed to provide information about their investigations and clearances to OPM’s CVS clearance database. If your information is in CVS, a DOD contractor FSO can get DISCO to accept it using a procedure known as an RRU. JPAS users can access the CVS database through JPAS. If your investigation and adjudication are not in CVS, they will have to be verified by letter inquiry. A knowledgeable DoD contractor FSO will know how to do this and get the information transferred to JPAS.

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    Just had my clearance ordered from OPM, sent to DISCO and adjudicated TS–took about 2.5 weeks. Done exactly as William said.

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    I was a DoS intern about 5 years ago. Of the 8 interns supposed to be at my embassy, two didn’t get clearances in time to start, and a third got hers on the last possible day. Another was incorrectly told hers had gone through. She had started making plans when they told her there was a mistake. Luckily, they were able to get her cleared in time for her planned start date, otherwise she would have been out some money.

    I don’t necessarily think it takes too long (I applied in March for a September internship), but if they aren’t going to be able to get a large number of interns cleared in time, maybe they should make everything due sooner to give themselves more time.

  10. Avatar

    I was a DoS intern in college and my TS clearance took 8+ months. When I got to DC I was told there was a ‘red flag’ and 2 weeks later was required to go down to DS to sign a form renouncing my birthright citizenship (which I didn’t know I had and had never acted upon).

    The worst feeling was moving across the country for this internship and sitting for 2 weeks with no information. Literally minutes after I signed the piece of paper I was sworn in and it all took off. By the way, this was one of the best and most influential experiences in my life.

  11. Avatar

    Correction to the above comment–the INTERNSHIP was one of the best and most influential experiences in my life… not the clearance process. 🙂