http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A27050-2002Mar27¬Found=true By Gail Repsher Emery Washington Technology Staff Writer Thursday, March 28, 2002; 12:00 AM The road to a personal security clearance is a six to 18-month journey. Here's what it takes: * A government contractor or federal agency manager determines an employee needs access to classified information. * The employee fills out the security investigation form, usually Standard Form 86, which asks for a host of personal information and references. The employee is fingerprinted and signs a form allowing the agency's investigators to access his or her personal records. * The form is sent to a personnel investigation center. An investigator, either a federal employee or a private contractor, conducts interviews and checks police, financial and employment records, among others. Typically, the investigator conducts records checks and interviews references dating back seven to 10 years. * The investigation results are sent to an adjudication facility, where a federal employee evaluates the results using established guidelines to determine eligibility for access to classified material. The clearance is granted or denied. * Individuals must undergo a re-evaluation of their status every five years for top-secret clearances and 10 years for secret clearances. Private-Facility Clearance The road to a private-facility security clearance is a journey of about four months. * In order to get a personal security clearance, an individual's business operation must first obtain a facility security clearance. The headquarters office must be cleared before any branch offices. The Defense Security Service issues facility clearances for the Department of Defense and 22 other agencies. * A letter of sponsorship must be sent to the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office in Columbus, Ohio, from a federal agency, or from a cleared prime contractor on behalf of a subcontractor. The letter details the level of classification the facility's employees require access to, and whether the information must be stored at the private facility. * DISCO makes sure the company isn't already cleared or debarred from federal contracting. * A DSS field industrial security representative identifies key company officials who must receive personal security clearances in connection with the facility clearance. The representative analyzes the company's foreign interests and also meets with the facility's security office to ensure the office has a viable security program. * The facility receives a Contract Security Classification Specification from its customer, which provides the security requirements and classification guidance needed for performance of a classified contract. * DSS conducts oversight visits annually for facilities storing classified information, and every 18 months for other cleared facilities. Common Misperceptions One misperception about the security clearance process is that an applicant should hide information from investigators that could jeopardize his or her case. "It's best to be open and honest with us and state all the facts and let the investigation takes its course. It's a lot better than trying to hide something," said Tom Thompson, director of the Defense Security Service personnel security investigations program. Applicants can be disqualified for a clearance if their deception is discovered. Post-Sept. 11 Delays in Clearance Processing Despite ongoing efforts to improve the clearance process, applicants are unlikely to see a dramatic drop in the time it takes -- six to 18 months on average -- because caseloads are growing in response to the war in Afghanistan and the domestic war on terrorism, federal agency officials said. "The proliferation of IT is going to be one driver ... and all of the military actions going on in the Middle East will drive our immediate requirements up. We know that it is going to get busier because the services have told us their needs are increasing," said Tom Thompson, director of the Defense Security Service personnel security investigations program. The Alexandria, Va., Defense Department agency conducts investigations for the military services and military contractors. DSS expects its 1,100 investigative agents and other personnel to handle about 600,000 applications in fiscal 2003, Thompson said. The most time-consuming investigation comes before issuing a top-secret clearance to an individual for the first time, Thompson said. It's also the most expensive, at $2,447 to conduct, according to DSS estimates. The investigator is required to check records and references that go back seven to 10 years or more. Even if the applicant supplies records such as college transcripts, the investigator probably has to retrieve those records as well. And, Thompson said, "we have to go out and interview all your references -- anywhere you've worked, neighbors, and we interview you. There is a lot of legwork." Speeding Up the Process The cumbersome security clearance process should speed up considerably under a new government initiative to move the process online. The Office of Personnel Management leads the e-clearance effort, part of the enterprise human resources e-government initiative, one of 24 government-wide e-government programs. More misperceptions: http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/16_24/cover/17995-5.html - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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