Security Clearance Process

Survey Finds Lack of Clearance Reciprocity Costs Contractors Time, Money

It’s a frequent problem particularly in the government-driven Washington, D.C. area – highly skilled cleared personnel left sitting on their hands for months at a time while awaiting security clearance reciprocity or transfer between agencies. In some cases the individuals are able to await work in a government office, although with limited access to networks, systems or other tools of the job. In other cases, they’re sitting at home, literally doing nothing except perhaps administrative duties while awaiting clearance transfer and subsequent placement.

The failed goal of clearance reciprocity was highlighted by Tech America in a recently released survey. Tech America didn’t note the number of respondents but said they were among the 1,000 defense industry firms that are a part of the organization. Of respondents, 96 percent noted difficulty in transferring clearances between agencies.

Lack of security clearance transfer as well as effective records keeping was cited as a hindrance to the security clearance process in the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. In 2005 an Executive Order addressed “Recirprocal Recognition of Existing Personnel Security Clearances.” The executive order included a checklist for determining whether or not a new investigation could be required. It also emphasized the needs for more efficient records keeping in order to keep updated on clearance status, reinvestigation history and polygraph information.

The Tech America survey did note that 52 percent of respondents said processing times for someone to obtain a clearance has improved, which supports survey findings of that clearance processing times have improved by about 30 days in the past two years.

Delays in clearance processing or transfer cause subsequent delays in getting employees to work – 37 percent of respondents noted it took 30-90 days to get a cleared employee onto a new contract at an agency. Depending on the work status of the professional, that could either mean 1-3 months without a paycheck or for a defense contractor, 1-3 months of funding a salary that isn’t returning a profit.

The good news is that the need for security clearance reciprocity isn’t lost on government leaders. Congressional testimony into security clearance reform has continually pointed to reciprocity as a key area for both cost savings and increased efficiency. Renewed interest improving the technology used to track security clearance applications and eAdjudication are also useful advancements in ensuring security clearance processing is more efficient, and more easy to transfer between agencies.


Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    I think the biggest problem is: The cleared world just recycles workers because of the clearance–many of them that don’t deserve the job. The industry misses out on some very talented folks because of clearance requirements needed to even apply.

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    All I know that over the last six years, this stuff has been processed faster and faster. At some point, they will just want a rubber stamp across the board and when the sh*t hits the fan, they’re going to be pointing the finger at the investigators.

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    Fully agree–remember 6 years ago when we got cases that were already a year past the CD. I miss those days because we never missed CD’s nor did we even worry about them.

    I also miss: Hey BW just do what you can–back then I covered 5 states.

  4. Avatar

    Hahaha. I remember those days as well, I went overseas at the time to help with the backlog at the was all sorts of FUBAR.

    I totally miss the do what you can days instead of the micromanage to death arbitrary numbers of today.

  5. Avatar

    I remember going through file cabinet after file cabinet to pick out my two-year-old cases. By the time we were looking for the subjects they had long since left their employers…

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    This is very interesting to read about, on how things used to be. I have a few questions.

    Have the report requirements always been as onerous as they are? Were the daily sources obtained requirements the same? Were there constant policy and procedure changes?

    Any other details about how things were different would be of interest and appreciated.

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    Things were different some good some bad. A SSBI required a minimum of 10 sources with correct coverage. No double-dipping and I had some SSBI’s that required 20-30 sources even with one job and one home–it was all in the numbers and dates and who was available. Report writing, to me, was better. SPINS were only the issue, we asked nothing else on the form. My average SPIN was 15 minutes long, rarely more. Reports have bounced from alot of details to some details to almost insane details.

    But, I’ll be quite honest: I’m not sure some of the silly things we all do is even OPM driven. I think companies all like different things are are the main driver’s behind some of our silly coverage requirements.

    Fed may be able to shed light as well. I noticed even us folks here are doing things differently–so, is it OPM or ??????

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    I don’t know who is to blame, I came from a meeting today and found out the reporting requirements have been scaled back for some time but I must have missed it. No wonder my reports are so long but I don’t want to get into the changes on a public forum, I would just say that everyone should go over the reporting requirments again. Apparently lots have changed since the roll-out of the new sf-86 and I missed most of them.

    I would have to blame OPM for a lack of getting policy out in a clear and concise manner, a handbook that has dozens of changes, pages added, penciled in additions, strike through redactions of partial sentences make it all really, really, confusing. I know that plenty of the Fed Investigators are frusterated with the state of affairs but I can only imagine how much of a mess it would be with contractors who have had the changes filtered down through other companies. It’s like a ridiculous game of telephone, where the orginal message is lost, changed and completely different by the time it makes it to the end of the chain.

    On the other hand, I believe that DoD is driver behind most all of the policy changes so they need to get their act together as well. We all really need to get on the same page.

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    The main issue I see now is the different standards between companies. I really think it all depends on what questions the contracting companies are asking OPM and maybe different people at OPM have different answers. It’s okay for one companie to confirm the sf86 answers by writing on the case papers but it’s not okay for another company to. One company has been allowing PIPS wireless access for ages while another just recently got approval. There are no real set standards anymore. Even review differs by company. It has gotten insane.

    Oh, how I miss me the olf fashioned SPIN. Those were the best…

  10. Avatar


    The game of telephone is a perfect analogy!!!!

  11. Avatar

    I thought it was the appropriate example.

    Also, as far as policy goes, SNAFU, also comes to mind.

  12. Avatar

    I know you investigators have great stories to tell and as a former adjudicator I have stories as well. But on the subject of reciprocity, in spite of Executive Orders, directives, regulations, and the Intel Reform Act of 2004, reciprocity does not exist from agency to agency. For example, we hired an FBI employee who was about to retire. She has a current (2012) investigation and a current (2012) favorable adjudication for TS. I have been trying for 6 months to get this info into JPAS. I even received a memo on FBI letterhead with this info and a POC at FBI which I sent to the adjudication facility. Still not in JPAS and we are in danger of losing this employee. SNAFU really fits.

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    I know this is off-topic, but there is no other way to ask a general question here. I was nominated for DoD Army SCI access at the end of December 2011. I have been checking with my security officer for an update just about every week, but all she tells me is that JPAS only shows the application is pending. Is there anything that my security officer can do to find out what is holding up the process other than just checking in JPAS?

  14. Avatar

    Waiting for SCI


    Call Army CCF and have them ask. If that doesn’t work ask your Command Special Security Officer why it’s been 9-10 months and have them check.

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    Bill L.

    I hear ya. When I retired from the military with my TS/SCI, I still had to do a re-investigation as an investigator. Back then, I took more than one contract and had yet another within a year. There is no ryhme or reason. There is no reason the FBI clearance can’t be switched. I will say recently my friends in security have had better luck taking ownership from other agencies. Don’t know if there is a magical secret to it or it is a good sign of things to come.

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    I just did a background on a contract investigator for a public trust. He already holds a Secret as well as was reinvestigated for it last year. He says he’s investigated just about every other year due to the different contracts he works on. I contacted our staff to see if I could get his investigation pulled because he has the recently investigated Secret and was told no.

    What a waste but on the flip side, it is job security.


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    I was offered a job that requires a TS clearance with the DOD. I already have a TS granted by DOS November of last year – would I still need to go through another investigation? I’ve been searching all over the web and have been getting different answers.

  18. Avatar

    Your security officer can tell from JPAS if the case is still open at OPM. If it is now at Army CCF for adjudication, the security officer can call the CCF telephone terminal (301-833-3850 to ask if there is a hold up. ONLY the security manager can call as the operators ask for specific identification before they will release info. If the nominating organization justifies a reason (e.g., OCONUS deployment), a request to expedite the case can be submitted.

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    The agency you would work for will determine that. It can be done, but all agencies can be a complete pain. Call the Security Manager for the company and ask if they will take ownership. The DoD can accept, but will they is the question.