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Your security clearance paperwork (SF-86) from your company will be electronically forwarded to the DoD’s Personnel Security Management Office-Industry (PSMO-I). You may also be able to submit your own security paperwork electronically through OPM’s e-QIP (Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing) system. PSMO-I personnel security specialists (adjudicators) will review your SF-86/eQIP for accuracy and completeness. If everything looks good, they will grant you an INTERIM SECRET or INTERIM TOP SECRET security clearance and then forward your SF-86/eQIP to Federal Investigative Services (FIS) to initiate a request for the required level of background investigation from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). If your SF-86/eQIP is sloppy, inaccurate or you’ve omitted requested information, your security paperwork will be rejected by PSMO-I and returned to your contractor’s security office for revisions. It’s important to fill out your SF-86/eQIP correctly on the first submission. Otherwise, you’re adding a lot of extra time to the completion date of your final investigation. If your SF-86/eQIP is accurate and complete as deemed by PSMO-I’s adjudicators, it is still possible to not be granted an INTERIM SECRET or INTERIM TOP SECRET security clearance. PSMO-I adjudicators adhere to special guidelines when deciding to grant INTERIM security clearances. If your SF-86/eQIP indicates that you fall under 1 or more of these guidelines, you won’t be granted an INTERIM clearance. So, it’s important to know how to fill out the SF-86/eQIP. It’s important to know what to disclose and what does not needlessly need to be disclosed. You may actually hurt yourself by disclosing needless information on your SF-86/eQIP.
The linkage with JPAS means that whatever actor successfully breached the OPM system potentially has pass-through access to a complete set of other extraordinarily sensitive National Security data, including detailed information on every US defense contractor facility, data about which defense facilities both USG and contractors may have.
- I’ve seen this a few times with sailors who were enlisting in one branch, and then changed their minds halfway through the process resulting in a “Loss of Jurisdiction”. The last couple times I’ve seen it, it’s just been a matter of sorting out where the errors in paperwork were, and then the process continued as normal.
- Why does eligibility reflect a “Loss of Jurisdiction” (LOJ)? LOJ is placed in JPAS on an individual’s eligibility once they have been out-processed from JPAS and no longer have an affiliation with the DoD as a military member, employee, or cleared contractor employee, prior to the DoD CAF being able to make a favorable eligibility.
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OPM’s Federal Investigative Services Division (FISD) will conduct the necessary electronic record checks and assign your case to an investigator if necessary. If you are in-process for a TOP SECRET clearance, you will be interviewed by an investigator. If you are in-process for a SECRET clearance and have no background issues, you’re fine. You will not meet with an investigator. If you have issues, you’ll be contacted by an investigator for an interview. Forget about CONFIDENTIAL level clearances; the U.S. government rarely issues those low level clearances anymore.
The Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) maintains DoD personnel security clearance eligibilities. Listed below are eligibilities with their definition for industry and the procedures for the FSO. When eligibility is changed, an Eligibility Change Notification is sent to any Security Management Office (SMO) with an active owning or servicing relationship with the individual's Person Categories. An active owning relationship must exist in order for servicing SMOs to receive notifications.
Eligibility information includes the level of eligibility adjudicated by the government central adjudication facility (CAF). The FSO cannot change this information but if the FSO believes it is incorrect, please notify PSMO-I via the Research, Recertify, Upgrade (RRU) function. Remember, the employee may have eligibility at a higher level than what is recorded at your facility due to previous employment or military service. The employee may not be granted access to classified information at a level higher level than the facility clearance level.
Prior to indoctrinating access, the FSO should verify clearance eligibility by viewing information contained in the Adjudication Summary. This will ensure the individual's eligibility supports the access. If there is a question on eligibility levels, contact the DoD Security Services Center for advice on appropriate definitions or procedures.
Interim Secret Clearances
An interim Secret determination is based on a review and assessment of information contained in records or systems available to PSMO-I and the applicant's Questionnaire for National Security Positions, SF86. An interim determination will permit the individual to have access to most of the classified information needed to perform his or her duties. The interim determination is made concurrently with the requesting of the investigation from OPM and generally remains in effect until an investigation is completed, at which time the applicant is considered for a final eligibility.
In accordance with Executive Order 12968, 'Access to Classified Information,' August 2, 1995, and Department of Defense (DoD) Regulation 5200.2- R, 'Personnel Security Program,' January 1987, an official Personnel Security Investigation (PSI) will be completed on the applicant so that PSMO-I may obtain the necessary information and relevant facts upon which to base a determination for final eligibility. Upon completion of the required investigation, a final security clearance determination will be made as quickly as possible and the FSO will be notified through the JPAS process.
Interim Top Secret Clearances
When an individual is submitted for a Top Secret clearance, there are two ways to qualify for an interim TS eligibility:
- Individual already has a valid eligibility of Secret or Confidential and favorable review of the investigation request
- If there is no valid Secret or Confidential when PSMO-I receives a request for Top Secret, PSMO-I submits the investigation request to OPM. OPM will send the Advanced National Agency Check (NAC) results when completed and PSMO-I will review the NAC to determine interim Top Secret eligibility.
Indicates the investigation request has been received and reviewed for potentially posting an Interim Determination. When the requirements for an Interim determination have not been met, PSMO-I will post 'Eligibility Pending' and defer adjudication until the completion of the requested investigation.
In plain English, what this means is this: In the past, the former DISCO would have posted “Interim Clearance Denied”. This means that your case has some issues and those issues need to be addressed by an investigator before any type of Interim Clearance can be granted. If your case is “clean” and has no issues, you will be granted an Interim Clearance. If your case is “dirty” or has some issues, you simply have to wait for your entire investigation to be formally completed. OPM-FIS has to send the official Report of Investigation (ROI) to DOD CAF or your agency’s security department before a final decision can be made.
As stated earlier, the entry “Interim Clearance Denied” used to be posted into JPAS. For various reasons, this entry has been replaced by the phrase of “Eligibility Pending”. People seem to think it looks and sounds better as it appears on the JPAS screen. Also, Facility Security Officers (FSOs) were being prejudiced against job applicants when this entry would appear in the JPAS system. Basically, there was a lot of crying about this phrase so it was changed…just another euphemism to make people feel better about themselves. “Eligibility Pending” still means the same thing, though……You have been denied an Interim Security Clearance!
PSMO-I does not respond to verbal inquiries from applicants regarding their interim determinations. If JPAS reflects Eligibility Pending, the applicants may contact Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), ATTN: Privacy Act Office, P.O. Box 168, Boyers, PA 16020-0168 for information regarding their JPAS record. However, if the Eligibility field is blank, PSMO-I will accept a letter from the applicant (including their full name, Social Security Number and return address) sent directly to the PSMO-I Planning Office requesting the reason(s) PSMO-I is awaiting a completed investigation before posting an eligibility determination. The Applicant or FSO must provide a copy of the initial SF86 Archival version to include signature pages with the requesting letter. The letter and Archival SF86 should be sent to: Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office, Attn: Planning Office, 600 10th Street, Suite 160, Fort Meade, MD 20755-5117. PSMO-I can only respond to the applicant directly regarding privacy act information. Security clearance applicants should address any questions or concerns regarding a security clearance application or processing to their FSO. The FSO should contact the DoD Security Services Call Center for assistance if other questions arise.
Withdrawal of Interim Clearance Eligibility
There will be occasions where the interim determination will be withdrawn after it has been issued. In accordance with DoD policies, PSMO-I no longer sends industry hard copy notifications of an interim withdrawal; JPAS notifies entities with a servicing or owning relationship. In addition, PSMO-I sends notifications via the JPAS Send Message functionality to all SMOs where interim access is reflected in JCAVS. Remember, an active owning relationship must exist in order for servicing SMOs to receive notifications. The NISPOM cites a notification will be provided and the JPAS notification is the mechanism that provides the notification (e.g. ISL 05L -1, item 5, which advises that notifications will be via JPAS.)
Loss of Jurisdiction
When an individual has an eligibility of Loss of Jurisdiction, there is no eligibility, i.e. the individual should be debriefed and no access provided until an eligibility that supports access is entered by a CAF. Loss of Jurisdiction or (LOJ) is usually posted when an individual has no affiliation with an Industry Facility. A CAF, other than DOHA, determines that an individual no longer requires access to SCI. If the individual still requires access to Top Secret the FSO should notify PSMO-I via RRU. In this instance, the FSO should debrief and remove the individual from SCI access. The collateral access should remain in JPAS to ensure that the collateral clearance need is identified. Failure to leave the collateral access in JPAS, may result in discontinuance of processing.
No Determination Made
If an individual has an eligibility of 'No Determination Made', there is no eligibility, i.e. the individual should be debriefed and no access provided until an eligibility that supports access is entered by a CAF. This eligibility type is primarily used when an individual fails to satisfy an official government request (non-compliance), for example:
- PSMO-I asks for follow-up information and it has not been provided (15 days for most requests, 30 days for SF-86 requests)*
- Suitability Determinations by PSMO-I and other CAFs
*Note: The previous eligibility will be reinstated once the official request is satisfied, provided there has not been a break in service longer than 24 months.
Position of Trust
This indicates the suitability of an individual for employment in a position of trust. Access to classified information is not required.
Denied or Revoked by DOHA
The individual does not hold a valid eligibility for access to classified information, therefore no access should be issued or access already provided should be removed. Denied or Revoked for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) Paragraph 7-101e of DoD 5200.2-R, Personnel Security Program, provides for separate due process for SCI and collateral eligibility. There are some cases in which SCI eligibility is denied or revoked, but the individual still has Top Secret access. FSOs are not required to remove the collateral access until they are instructed to do so by PSMO-I or DOHA.
One final important note to remember. Just because you were denied an INTERIM security clearance, that does not necessarily mean that you will be denied a final security clearance. Most people who were denied an INTERIM security clearance will ultimately receive their final security clearance after the background investigation has run its course and been completed. There is one thing, though: A lot of people lose their jobs or are not hired for a job because they failed to obtain an INTERIM clearance at the start. It’s unfair but that’s what’s going on in the real world as far as defense contractors are concerned.
Contact us at DC Security Clearance Consultants. We’ll show you the way to greatly increase the probability of you obtaining your requisite security clearance at both the INTERIM and FINAL stages.
I grew up watching David Letterman. In addition to Chris Elliot (see the movie “Cabin Boy” if you haven’t done so!) and Larry “Bud” Melman, I was also a big fan of his top 10 list. Currently, I know a lot of people follow the daily lists that are published by Buzzfeed. I decided to come up with my own top 10 security clearance issues and problems list that I see my clients have on a fairly regular basis with regard to their respective clearances. This is from my experience of handling all aspects of security clearance cases for many years. Of course, every situation and fact pattern for each individual is unique and different so please use this for informational purposes only and rely on your own best judgment and that of an attorney of your choosing to explore the very specific facts of your situation before you take any action.
- Many people who have clearances or who want to get clearances have worries about their situation. Do not discuss your concerns with anyone! In harsher terms, I will also say to please keep your mouth shut! Sharing worries or concerns with anyone will make it seem like a bigger deal than, in all probability, it is and may give the people around you concern for your background and your potential access to classified material. If you must share your concerns with anyone, do so with a qualified attorney of your choosing who has experience in this area of the law and where the attorney-client privilege is in place and no one knows what you discussed other than you and your attorney. In a pinch, you may want to talk to a facility security officer (FSO) but I even advise against that since that may put the FSO under an obligation to make an incident report in the Joint Personnel Adjudications System (JPAS) and document what you said. You don’t want anything negative noted in your JPAS record!
- Make sure you always complete the SF 86 timely through the eQuip system when told to do so. I have seen a number of people not get around to it in time and then their clearance is officially suspended and, in most cases, they will then lose their job due to a loss of clearance jurisdiction. If that happens, you may not be able to get your job back for a long time, if ever. Complete the SF 86 when told to do so and don’t delay!
- When filling out the SF 86, be exact and thorough. Practice and re-write the answers to any questions that trouble you so that they are perfect. Be very thorough and provide detailed and long explanations where allowed to do so in the face of any question that troubles you.
- Like a hard test, make sure to read and then re-read every question on the SF 86 before you answer them.
- Make sure you know if the question is asking for a response that covers “the last 7 years,” the last 10 years,” or “EVER.” DO NOT make a mistake here or the consequences to your clearance can be severe, to include the denial or revocation of the clearance itself. Answer the SF 86 exactly and know how and why you answered a troubling question the way that you did.
- While holding a clearance, make sure to self-report anything that happens to you (e.g., a DUI, drug charge, public intoxication charge, domestic violence charge, a bankruptcy filing – ANYTHING negative that happens to you!) to your FSO. Do it by email. Practice your email and make sure it is perfect with a detailed explanation of what happened and what you are doing to make sure it is not a problem in the future. DO NOT discuss it with anyone else. See number 1 above. Only send a courteous and detailed email to your FSO and then, as it says in number 1, please keep your mouth shut!
- ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS timely file your tax returns. And, by this, I mean both your federal and state tax returns. I don’t care if you owe the taxing authorities or not, please make sure you file your returns on time for both federal and state taxing authorities for each and every year. In fact, this is so important to a clearance that, if anyone reading this has not filed all of their returns for the past years, I encourage you to stop reading now and get this done before the day is out. MAKE SURE ALL TAX RETURNS TO BOTH THE IRS AND YOUR STATE TAXING AUTHORITY AND ANY OTHER ENTITY THAT REQUIRES A RETURN FROM YOU IS TIMELY FILED!!! I can’t stress this enough. If not timely filed, GET THEM DONE AND FILED NOW! You stand a good chance of losing your clearance or being denied a clearance if you haven’t done so! If you owe the IRS or the state any money, work out a WRITTEN payment plan that you absolutely commit to and follow through on so that you can provide perfect proof of a payment to the government if your clearance is called into question. Also, see number 10 below for a bankruptcy filing that pays back in full ALL of the back tax debt to the IRS and the state (and any other creditors).
- If you get any type of alcohol charge against you and you have a clearance or are applying for a job that requires one, please address your usage of alcohol. Even with one alcohol related charge in a lifetime, based upon my experience, I would like to see behavior that is absolutely sober and includes committed and regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) I am seeing a lot of movement by the government for revoking or denying a clearance for just one alcohol related incident in a lifetime. If there is more than one alcohol related incident in a lifetime, then this advice, for what it is worth, is absolutely mandatory from my perspective. Failure to live a sober life AND commit to regular and consistent AA attendance will, in most likelihood, result in the denial and/or revocation of a security clearance.
- If you have any type of drug issue, both while holding a clearance or before, you must become drug free. In-patient treatment is strongly preferred if there has been a drug problem and, at a minimum, a person must attend outpatient treatment and also use other aftercare requirements such as AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). A person who has had a drug problem in the past can get a security clearance but it is absolutely critical that they live a subsequent sober life and also do everything they can to make sure there is no relapse.
- Financial issues are one of the biggest concerns to the government when it is granting an initial clearance or considering revoking one. Get your credit reports, all three of them, from AnnualCreditReport.com You should do this before you start answering the detailed financial questions in your SF 86. If you have outstanding debts that are in collection, late, or if you are being sued on them, etc., you must have a plan worked out with the creditor(s). It is not good enough for the government to say that you will simply work out a payment plan. You have to have an actual WRITTEN payment plan worked out that you can submit in writing that shows that you and the creditor or creditors which you are having problems with agree. It is also acceptable to file a bankruptcy if done so properly. Discuss your situation with a competent bankruptcy lawyer as to what type of bankruptcy you should file and how it should look. In a nutshell, if you can do it, I always recommend filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy plan where all of the debts are paid back in full, 100%. That is the best possible outcome for a clearance where debts are delinquent and an issue for the person applying for the clearance. Depending upon the circumstances, you can explore paying back less or a chapter 7 straight bankruptcy but I would be very wary of these options. This also applies if there is more than one bankruptcy in a lifetime. If there is more than one bankruptcy in a lifetime, then I absolutely advise a person to file a 100% Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan where all the debts are paid back in full. Again, if you have debts and they are delinquent and you are getting collection calls and letters, then discuss your situation with a competent bankruptcy lawyer who can evaluate your situation in light of your clearance concerns.
- This is our bonus to the list, really making it a top 11 list! If you get to the point where the government is moving to revoke or deny your clearance, make sure you appeal the revocation or denial and ALWAYS REQUEST A HEARING BEFORE AN ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE! This is your single best shot to fight for your clearance and explain why the government’s concerns are not worthy of a clearance denial or revocation. You will have a hearing in your locality before an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the Department of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). You have the option to appear at the hearing by yourself, with any third party of your choosing or a lawyer retained by you. If the clearance is important to you, do not go to the hearing alone. From my experience, most people that do so ultimately have their clearance denied or revoked. I recommend that you hire an experienced and competent attorney who practices in this area if the clearance is important to you. If you are unable to hire a lawyer then, at an absolute minimum, bring in a third party whom you trust to speak on your behalf.
Please feel free to contact me, by phone or email, if you would like to discuss any concerns that you have regarding your clearance. My goal is to put security clearance issues and concerns that you may have to rest at the earliest and lowest possible level.
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