“Why is obtaining a security clearance so valuable?”
When it comes to the Top 10 questions about security clearances, this query takes the top spot – particularly in 2019.
Clearances are not easy to come by. The application process, alone, can be intense, more than a little bit invasive, and involve piles of paperwork. Still, more than half of all federal jobs require a security clearance of some kind, with another 1.2 million clearances being required by government contractors.
It’s a big number; and one that becomes even more significant when you consider the current backlog of more than 500,000 applicants just waiting for their clearances to be processed.
That means prospects holding security clearances are highly sought after throughout defense and intelligence communities, while those pursuing a clearance will ultimately be a hugely valuable commodity.
Here are nine additional questions about security clearances LG-TEK often fields from incoming job applicants.
1. Who needs a security clearance?
By and large, anyone working in a government-secured facility, or performing duties requiring access to classified government information and/or documents must hold a security clearance.
This can include government employees or private contractors, and extends from defense, homeland, and cybersecurity sectors to the food service industries and cleaning crews that cater to them.
2. What are the different levels of security clearances?
Security clearances are issued by a number of U.S. government agencies that deal with classified information, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice.
There are three type of clearances:
Confidential clearances are basic-level clearances, and the easiest to obtain. Common among military personnel, these clearances cover positions in which the disclosure of classified material would cause measurable damage to national security.
Secret clearances require the handling of material that could cause grave or serious damage to national security if divulged. These clearances are reinvestigated every 10 years.
Top Secret clearances, of course, are the highest level of clearances issued, and permit access to classified information of the greatest sensitivity; information that if divulged could prove disastrous to national security.
3. What is the first step in obtaining a security clearance?
Individuals seeking employment in a classified arena cannot instigate the security clearance process by themselves. The application process must be initiated by a prospective employer or sponsor.
4. How does the security clearance investigation process work?
After a conditional offer of employment has been extended, the personal security background investigation begins.
Applicants first complete what is known as the Questionnaire for National Security Positions – or Standard Form 86 – before a thorough investigation is launched to verify fingerprints, criminal records, citizenship, education, employment, financial status, and more.
The process, which potentially involves interviews with the applicant’s current and prospective employers, neighbors, associates, and former classmates, is meant to determine the individual’s strength of character, trustworthiness, reliability, discretion, judgement, and loyalty to the United States.
Ultimately, candidates are interviewed face-to-face, ruling out any possible discrepancies with the initial questionnaire.
5. Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to obtain a clearance?
Only naturalized and native U.S. citizens are eligible for security clearances. However, in certain cases, non-U.S. citizens may be granted Limited Access Authorization (LAA) if they offer a unique skillset that is urgently required for a U.S. Government classified contract.
6. Why do clearances get denied?
Assuming missing information or misinformation are not grounds for rejection, security clearance investigation delays or denials can occur for the following reasons:
- Criminal conduct
- Unlawful drug use or dependency
- Mental or emotional disorders
- Foreign preference (or unwillingness to surrender a foreign passport)
- Severe financial problems
7. What is an interim security clearance?
Given extenuating circumstances, the U.S. Government may grant a limited interim clearance at Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret levels.
Interim clearances are routinely granted at the same time the primary investigation is issued and ends with that investigation’s completion.
8. How long is my clearance good for?
Typically, your security clearance will remain intact as long as you are employed with the government agency or contractor that hired you, and for as long as you are expected to need access to classified information.
If you leave the job that required a clearance, your clearance will be terminated at that time.
If your job responsibilities change, and no longer require the handling of sensitive information, your clearance might be downgraded to “Current” status, allowing your employer to reinstate it at a later date.
9. How much is my clearance really worth?
While security clearances are initially costly to procure, the Return on Investment a government employer can expect to recoup from a reliable, honest, and driven employee is typically viewed as being worth every penny. The time and money saved from background checks and monotonous paperwork is often reinvested in an employee’s salary, and experts posit this boost lies somewhere between $5,000 to $15,000 per clearance.
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Our office provides energetic and intelligent individuals with various opportunities to do phenomenal work across the United States.