FAQS - Adjudication and Vetting Services (AVS)

1. What is a security clearance?

A security clearance is a personnel security determination by competent authority that an individual is eligible for access to national security information and/or assignment to duties that have been designated “national security sensitive”.

2. Who issues a security clearance?

The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services renders security clearance determinations for all DOD affiliated personnel (Military, Civilians, and Industry personnel), and select non-DOD agency personnel. If the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services decision is properly appealed, a higher-level panel of three individuals outside of the Adjudications make a final decision on issuance for military and civilian individuals. If an industry applicant appeals a DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services decision, the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) decides eligibility on appeal.

3. What is a “need to know” and a “need for access?”

As defined in Executive Order 12968, as amended, ‘‘need to know’’ means a determination made by an authorized holder of classified information that a prospective recipient requires access to specific classified information in order to perform or assist in a lawful and authorized governmental function. As defined in Executive Order 12968, as amended, “need for access’’ means a determination that an individual requires access to a particular level of classified information in order to perform or assist in a lawful and authorized governmental function.

4. Who is required to have a security clearance?

Individuals employed by the Federal Government and military members serving in classified or national security sensitive positions. Requirement for a security clearance are therefore job-based, not individually based. Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 12968, as amended, “No employee shall be granted access to classified information unless that employee has been determined to be eligible in accordance with this order and to possess a need-to-know.”

5. Who may apply or a Security Clearance?

Individuals cannot submit applications for security clearances on their own behalf. Other cleared people cannot nominate them for a clearance. Only the employing organization can determine whether an individual’s position will require access to classified information and if necessary will initiate the processing of a security clearance for the person occupying that job.

6. How does the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services determine if an individual can be granted eligibility for access to classified information and/or assignment to duties that have been designated national security sensitive?

The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services determines eligibility in accordance with Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 4 “National Security Adjudicative Guidelines.” The decision to grant or deny an individual an eligibility is based on a review of information that he or she supplies and information that is gathered during the background investigation and other available, reliable information. All the information, both positive and negative, is considered against a set of adjudicative guidelines, which are standards promulgated by the ODNI as implementing documents for Executive Order 12968. Each guideline covers a broad security concern, the issues that may arise under that concern, and the information that may mitigate the security concern. Personnel security specialists receive training and are professionally certified to make decisions based on the guidelines. They must document those decisions and their rationale when granting or denying eligibility to an individual.

7. Who conducts the investigation?

DCSA has the responsibility of conducting background investigations for over 100 federal agencies — approximately 95% of all background investigations government-wide.

8. Where can I get assistance completing my security clearance package or inquire about the status of my security clearance?

The Security Manager or designated representative for your organization should be your first contact for assistance in completing a security clearance package or inquiring into the status of a security clearance.

9. What does “No Determination Made” mean in DISS?

“No determination made” (NDM) means that there is currently inadequate information that prevents the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services from making a favorable or unfavorable clearance determination. There are several potential reasons for this determination, including the following: 1) When the investigation was requested, the command indicated "Access Level = 0,” meaning no access is required. 2) The individual is not a United States citizen. 3) Additional information was requested regarding an individual’s personnel security investigation, however no response to the investigation was received by the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services. New codes to replace NDM are currently under review with USD (I&S).

10. Why does eligibility reflect a “Loss of Jurisdiction” (LOJ)?

LOJ is placed in DISS on an individual’s eligibility once they have been out-processed from DISS and no longer have an affiliation with the DOD as a military member, employee, or cleared contractor employee, prior to the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services being able to make a favorable eligibility determination. In order to request adjudication, the Security Manager or Facility Security Officer (FSO) must submit a Customer Service Request (CSR) in the Defense Information Security System (DISS) for a new action to request adjudication once they have created a new owning relationship for that individual in their account.

11. How do I initiate a required personal subject interview (PSI) for an individual who previously could not be interviewed due to deployment?

DCSA processes agency requests to re-open investigations and conduct Reimbursable Suitability/Security Investigations (RSI). A “re-open” applies to an investigation that has been closed with DCSA within the past year and uses the DCSA’s Federal Investigations Processing Center (FIPC) 553. The FIPC receives the requests for investigation, processes the requests through an automated system, and serves as an entrance point for case-related and operations questions. An RSI applies to all other investigations that remain within scope and have been closed with DCSA for more than a year and uses the FIPC 554. The FIPC 553 and FIPC 554 and be submitted via the secure NP2 Portal.

12. What does SCI mean?

Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), that is, information and materials that because of their sensitivity require special controls for restricted handling within intelligence collection programs. Special systems of information compartmentation must be formally established, with special requirements for individuals requiring “SCI access”.

13. How do I request Interim Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) eligibility for military and civilian personnel?

Individuals cannot submit applications for SCI eligibility, whether interim or final, on their own behalf. Other SCI-cleared people cannot nominate individuals for SCI eligibility. Only the component that has SCI responsibilities can submit a Customer Service Request (CSR) to the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services in DISS using the “Interim SCI Eligibility” option. A copy of the individual’s most recent Standard Form 86 (SF-86) and the personnel screening interview questionnaire must accompany the request. Using any other CSR option could result in the request being rejected or other delays. Components who are unable to select the “Interim SCI Eligibility” CSR option must contact the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) Helpdesk at 1-800-467-5526 or email dmdc.contactcenter@mail.mil, for resolution.

14. An individual’s eligibility was Administratively Withdrawn by the “Collab CAF” in JPAS. Who is the Collab CAF and can the eligibility be recertified?

The Collab CAF is DMDC, who is the information owner and administrator of DISS. DMDC has several Data Quality Initiatives (DQI) that result in an individual’s eligibility being Administratively Withdrawn. These DQIs identify breaks-in-service, lack of U.S. citizenship listed in DISS, and other conditions. Eligibility can be recertified, if appropriate, if the component submits a CSR to recertify the individual’s eligibility.

15. What does it mean if DISS reflects eligibility as “Favorable?

The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services renders “favorable” eligibility determinations on non-US citizens and others not requiring eligibility or access to classified information.

16. What are “Special Requirements,” and when do they apply

For access to some classified information, such as SCI or Special Access Programs (SAPs), the information owner may impose additional requirements or conditions even if the individual is otherwise eligible for a security clearance or access authorization based on Reciprocity. Two common examples are the requirement of some agencies for the individual to undergo a polygraph or counterintelligence polygraph examination before being hired, and the requirement of some agencies that the individual not have any foreign-born relatives.

17. I previously worked for the Department of Energy (DOE) and was granted Access Authorization. If I come to the DoD, will I need a new investigation?

It depends on how long ago you had access with the DoE.  Reciprocity usually applies.  Per Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD 7), “Agencies shall accept national security eligibility adjudications conducted by an authorized adjudicative agency at the same level or higher level…”  DOE “L” and “Q” Access Authorizations are equivalent to “Secret” and “Top Secret” eligibility respectively. 

18. If I leave the DoD for another Federal agency, will I lose my eligibility, or will it transfer to my new agency?

In most instances, if you need eligibility in the new agency, the eligibility will be reciprocally accepted by the new agency.  The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued guidance regarding Reciprocity of Background Investigations and National Security Adjudications via Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 7.

19. What is Continuous Evaluation/Continuous Vetting (CE/CV)?

The DoD Continuous Evaluation (CE) program is an ongoing screening process to review the background of an individual who is already assigned to a sensitive position or has access to classified information. CE leverages automated record checks and applies business rules (aligned to the Federal Investigative Standards) to assist in the ongoing assessment of an individual's continued eligibility. Eventually all DoD-affiliated personnel will be enrolled in CE, thereby reducing the need for periodic-reinvestigations.

20. If the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services makes a decision to deny or revoke my clearance eligibility, do I have the right to appeal?

Yes, every individual who undergoes a background investigation and receives an unfavorable decision has the right to administrative Due Process. Civilian and military personnel can choose to appeal in writing directly to their respective component Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB) or indirectly through a personal appearance at the Defense Office of Hearings & Appeals (DOHA). In either case, the final appeal decision is made by the PSAB. Industry personnel must appeal to DOHA for a final decision. For more information, refer to DoD Manual 5200.2 for military and civilian personnel and DoD Directive 5220.6R for industry personnel.

21. What if I go through the appeal process and the appeal authority upholds the DCSA Adjudications decision to deny or revoke my clearance eligibility?

The decision of the appeal authority, whether DOHA or a PSAB, is final. At the conclusion of the appeal process, however, the individual’s Security Office may submit a Reconsideration Request to the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services no earlier than one year from the date of the final denial or revocation. The individual is responsible for providing documentation to their security office that the circumstances or conditions that resulted in the denial or revocation have been rectified or sufficiently mitigated to warrant reconsideration. Reconsideration is not an action that is available to individuals; only an employing organization may ask for reconsideration. The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services will review the information provided in the Reconsideration Request and make a decision to grant or deny eligibility. No Due Process or appeal rights are afforded to the individual. In lieu of the reconsideration process, the owning organization has the option to submit a request for a new background investigation. The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services will make a final determination upon the completion, receipt, and review of the background investigation. However, the organization cannot submit a request for the investigation until a year has passed since the final denial or revocation. Regardless of which option is exercised, the individual’s clearance remains denied or revoked in the system of record. During this time, the individual cannot be granted interim eligibility or access.

22. How can I get a copy of my background investigation?

To request a copy of your background investigation, you must submit a request to the DCSA Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act FOIA/PA Office, using the INV100 Freedom of Information, Privacy Act Record Request Form or submit a handwritten request.

23. How can individuals obtain information concerning their own security clearance?

Individuals are prohibited from directly contacting the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services for information on their own clearance, they must contact their respective Security Management Office (SMO) or, for individuals in industry, their Facility Security Office (FSO). Only authorized SMOs and FSOs can contact the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services on the behalf of an individual.

24. Who do I contact if I am experiencing technical issues with the Defense Information System for Security (DISS)?

You must contact the DMDC Helpdesk at 1-800-467-5526 or email dmdc.contactcenter@mail.mil.

25. What is HSPD-12, Suitability, and Fitness?

Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 (HSPD-12), as specified by the DoD Instruction 5200.46, is a program addressing individuals entrusted with access to federal property and information systems must not put the U.S. government at risk or provide an avenue for terrorism. The HSPD-12 program provides guidance for issuing the Common Access Card (CAC), which serves as the DoD Personal Identity Verification (PIV) credential. HSPD-12 primarily covers the un-cleared contractor population

DoD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 731 delegates authority to the the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services to manage the employment suitability program for the DoD. Suitability adjudications are required for all covered positions (including most federal jobs) and take into consideration a person’s “suitability.” Determinations are based on a person’s character and conduct that may have an impact on the integrity or efficiency of the service.

Fitness adjudications follow much of the same program guidance as suitability but are conducted for employees of contractors supporting the federal government.

The majority of HSPD-12, Suitability, and Fitness investigations are conducted on what are known as Tier-1 Investigations.

26. What does the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services do if they cannot make a favorable HSPD-12, Suitability, or Fitness determination?

Currently, the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services does not have the authority to make an unfavorable HSPD-12, Suitability, or Fitness determination. In cases where the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services does not have enough information to mitigate a potential issue or the case warrants administrative Due Process, the DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services will transfer the case to the employing component for a final adjudicative determination. This transfer is known as a “Transfer of Jurisdiction” or “TOJ.” Each component is expected to have an adjudicator for these cases. The DCSA Adjudication and Vetting Services is planning a pilot program for the possibility of working these unfavorable cases in the future.

27. What are the requirements for background checks on individuals in the DOD Child Care Services Programs?

According to DoD Instruction 1402.05, all individuals who have regular contact with children under 18 years of age in DoD-sanctioned childcare services programs will undergo a criminal history background check in order to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children in such programs. Individuals subject to criminal history background checks as part of the childcare program include:

  1. All personnel employed or performing duties in DoD child and youth or other sanctioned child care services program.
  2. Individuals providing in-home Family Child Care (FCC).
  3. Personnel employed or performing duties in child and youth recreational and athletic programs (e.g., morale, welfare, and recreation).
  4. Individuals employed or performing duties in a DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) school, whether directly involved with teaching or not.
  5. Chaplains, chaplains’ assistants, religious program specialists, and other individuals employed or performing childcare services duties for child under 18 years of age on a DoD installation or as part of a military-sanctioned program.
  6. Foster and respite childcare providers on a DoD installation, program, or as part of a military-sanctioned activity.
  7. Health and mental health care personnel employed or performing childcare services duties on a DoD installation, in a DoD sanctioned program, or as part of a military-sanctioned activity.
  8. Individuals employed or performing childcare duties in social services, residential care, rehabilitation programs, detention, and correctional services on a DoD installation program, or as part of a military-sanctioned activity.
  9. Any other individuals reasonably expected to have regular contact with children on a DoD installation, in a DoD sanctioned program, or as part of a military-sanctioned activity.

When scheduling the investigation through DCSA, the component must specify extra coverage Code 8 or position Code H to schedule childcare coverage on the investigation. Childcare screenings include specific additional background checks to include a State Criminal History Repository (SCHR) check for all listed residences and a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal history background check. Installation records checks and checks of family advocacy program records are conducted for individuals if they have prior DoD affiliations.

1. Will I lose or fail to gain a clearance just because I sought mental health care?

No. Seeking mental health care is a positive course of action and a sign of sound judgment. It is the most common way to mitigate mental health issues and is recognized as a positive step during the personnel vetting process.

2. What mental health issues do I need to report?

Initial clearance requests: Clearance candidates should follow current Standard Form 86 (SF-86) Section 21 guidance regarding reporting instructions. The issues of potential concern are:

  • Legal findings of mental incompetence
  • Court-ordered mental health care
  • In-patient mental health care
  • Certain diagnoses which, by their very nature, may impair judgment or reliability
  • Self-appraised mental health concerns that could impact judgment or reliability

Cleared individuals: As with many reportable categories, significant changes to questionnaire responses mandate self-reporting to an individual’s security manager or facility security officer. Actively cleared individuals who experience one of the examples cited above after completing their SF-86 are required to report the new information to their security office by filling out an SF-86C.

3. What mental health-related issues may raise security concerns?

An intentional lack of transparency in answering the questions in Section 21 or failing to report new information to your security office will raise significant security concerns;, other potential security concerns generally include:

  • Behaviors which may result in a threat to oneself or others
  • Not seeking treatment when needed
  • Non-compliance with recommended mental health treatment
  • Involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Co-occurring mental health issues and substance abuse issues
  • Recurrent or chronic mental health concerns, which have not responded sufficiently to treatment

4. What happens if I answer “Yes” to Section 21 on my SF-86?

Investigators may request the opinion of your current or most recent health care professional to determine whether your condition possibly impacts your reliability, judgment, trustworthiness, and capacity to perform sensitive national security duties. Depending upon the nature of the concern, the investigator may request a summary of your medical records or hard copies of your medical records. In some cases, individuals may be asked to participate in an independent psychological evaluation with a government approved evaluator.

5. Are there some psychological conditions or treatments that would automatically disqualify an applicant from obtaining or maintaining clearance eligibility?

No. There are no automatically disqualifying conditions or treatments. National security professionals have demonstrated the ability to manage work effectively with appropriate treatment, even for conditions specified in Section 21. When necessary, seeking mental health care helps demonstrate integrity and trustworthiness and may contribute favorably to decisions about eligibility.