Maintaining a Clearance
Frequently Asked Questions
A personnel security clearance is an administrative determination by a certified adjudicator that an individual is eligible under national security standards for access to classified information. In order to make this determination, a personnel security background investigation is conducted. The information collected must be sufficient to allow an affirmative or negative determination of a person's eligibility for access to classified information. The security clearance process begins when a company determines that an employee or candidate for employment requires a personnel security clearance to access classified information in order to perform the duties of his or her position. If the applicant has never held a personnel security clearance, or if their previous clearance was terminated more than 24 months ago, this is referred to as an initial clearance. The employee must complete an Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (e-QIP), signature pages and submit fingerprints electronically for all initial investigation requests.
The Facility's Security Officer (FSO) or designee initiates the e-QIP using the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) based on the new Federal Investigative Standards. In some instances, the FSO will receive indication from JPAS that an investigation is not required for the applicant. If this happens, the FSO should check Procedures for Industrial Clearance/Investigation Requests to determine if “Break in Service” should be indicated or contact us. The prime contract number is a required field in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System for personnel security clearance investigations. DCSA may reject investigation submissions that don't include the prime contract number, as shown in the associated guidance.
Upon successful initiation of e-QIP via JPAS, the Security Management Office (SMO) will receive a JPAS notification with e-QIP account user instructions and Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is also referred to as a Registration Code. The FSO will provide the e-QIP account user instructions (including the PIN / Registration Code) and the applicant will access the SF86 via the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) e-QIP system. The applicant completes the e-QIP and digitally signs their certification and release forms as part of Click to Sign”“ (C2S) feature within the system. The FSO reviews the security clearance package for completeness and provides the employee with written notification that review of the security questionnaire is for adequacy and completeness and the information will be used for no other purposes within the company in accordance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), DoD 5220.22 Manual.
Certification and Release(s)
The FSO submits the security clearance package via JPAS to the Vetting Risk Operations Center (VROC), an element of the Defense Security Service. Note: VROC does not accept Tier 5 Investigations formerly known as Single Scope Background Investigations (SSBI) submitted as Secret clearance requirements for Automation Data Processing (ADP)/Information Technology (IT) positions, or (NACI) for Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 12 (HSPD-12) positions. Requests for investigations that don’t need access to classified information must be submitted in accordance with procedures available from the Government Contracting Activity (GCA).
Additional clearance request submission instructions:
In a memorandum dated July 29, 2010, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence issued a requirement for Department of Defense (DoD) components to transition to electronic capture and submission of fingerprint images in support of all background investigations by December 31, 2013 (e-Fingerprint memo). This requirement extends to contractors cleared under the National Industrial Security Program. Consequently, DCSA no longer provides FD-258 cards and Industry must either submit fingerprints electronically through DMDC’s Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission (SWFT) or use one of several other alternatives found here.
Effective October 1, 2016, all fingerprints associated with SON 346W must be submitted electronically to the Office of Personnel Management, or the fingerprint will be rejected. This will also result in the rejection of any investigation requests if an electronic fingerprint is not received within 14 days of the investigation request being received by OPM. Fingerprints are required for initial investigations and should be submitted through SWFT immediately after the e-QIP has been released to the VROC. Please note, it is not necessary to associate the e-QIP number with the electronic fingerprint file.
The FSO can confirm OPM has processed the fingerprints by checking SII in JPAS which indicates a “SAC” closed. Fingerprint results are valid for 120 days.
VROC reviews all industrial applicant security clearance packages for completeness prior to forwarding to the organization that conducts the investigation. Interim Secrets and Interim Top Secrets can only be granted based on the following criteria:
Once the Advanced products are returned from OPM, VROC will then make an interim Top Secret determination for cases with no previous eligibility.
In the case where an applicant has already had a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity, VROC can check the files and systems available to them to determine if the applicant already has a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity to leverage. Further information about interim clearances may be found here.
The Investigation Service Provider (ISP) reviews the security clearance package for completeness to open the investigation. If the package is incomplete, the ISP and VROC will coordinate with the FSO to resolve issues to prevent the unacceptable status. If unable to resolve the unacceptable issue the request will be "Terminated by ISP." Once the request is accepted by the ISP, the investigation process begins.