Personal security clearances are required in this country, as in others, to counter the threats which may stem from the following:

  • Foreign intelligence services;
  • Those who wish to overthrow or undermine the government by unconstitutional or violent means; terrorist groups; and
  • Individuals who:
    • May be susceptible to pressure or improper influence;
    • Have shown dishonesty or lack of integrity which casts doubt upon their reliability;
    • Have demonstrated behavior or are subject to circumstances which may otherwise indicate unreliability.

Conducting security clearance investigations is a key element in protecting the Nations security.

How Does The Security Clearance Process Work?

All candidates for a security clearance are asked to complete a security questionnaire, usually the Standard Form 86 (SF 86), which explains the purpose of the security clearance, sets out the governments security policy in full, and asks you to provide the personal details required to conduct the necessary checks.

Who Conducts my Security Clearance Investigations?

The Defense Security Service (DSS) is the agency that will conduct your clearance investigation. (Other investigative activities also conduct background investigation for federal government and government contractor employees.)

What is the Investigative Process?

The personnel security investigation (PSI) is comprised of the following:

  • A search of investigative files and other records held by federal agencies, including the FBI, and, if appropriate, overseas countries;
  • A financial check;
  • Field interviews of references (in person, by telephone, or in writing, to include co-workers, employers, personal friends, educators, neighbors, and other individuals, as appropriate;
  • A personal interview with you conducted by an investigator.

Who Decides Whether a Security Clearance Will be Granted?

An adjudicator, a person trained in the process of reviewing and evaluating security clearance information, reviews the results of your investigation and compares it to established qualifying criteria for access to classified national security information

What Can I Do to Keep the Clearance Time as Short as Possible?

You can help DSS complete your investigation as quickly as possible by doing the following:

    • Provide Accurate Information on your Security Forms. Provide all information required by the forms and follow the instructions.


    • Use the Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire. If possible, use the EPSQ rather than a paper form. Using the EPSQ will decrease the processing time for your clearance request because the form is electronically forwarded, rather than mailed. Additionally, the data entered on the form is electronically validated, which prevents delays due to inadvertent errors or omissions. Contact your Security Officer about using the EPSQ, which can be downloaded from the DSS web site @


    • Be as Specific as Possible. General entries, such as listing your employment as the U.S. Navy, should be avoided; list actual duty location and dates assigned to that location.


  • Keep DSS Apprised of Changes in Your Duty Location. If you expect to transfer from your employment location within 90 days following the completion of your forms, you should enter the location of your next duty station and anticipated arrival date on your security form. Additionally, if you are a candidate for a Top Secret clearance or for access to Sensitive Compartmented Information, you should contact DSS if you are relocating and have not yet been contacted for a personal interview.

What a Long Form! Is it Really Necessary?

The security questionnaire can look daunting, but you will find that most questions are fairly straightforward. You should first read through the instructions and questions to find out what is required, collect the necessary information, and then allow plenty of time for completion. You must answer all questions. Failure to do so may delay the decision about your clearance. If you do not understand a question, please ask for guidance from whomever gave you the form. If you realize, after you have handed the form in, that you have inadvertently made a mistake or omitted something important, please tell your Security Officer or the DSS Investigator when you are interviewed. If you do not do so, the error or omission could be held against you during the adjudicative process.

Who Should I Name as References and What Will They be Asked?

You should name people who have known you well over a significant period of your life. They will be asked to describe you and your way of life, attitudes, abilities, etc. Essentially, the DSS Investigator will be trying to verify and complete the information provided in your security forms.

Tempted to Keep Quiet About Something in my Past and Hope No One Finds Out...

Lying or concealing information on security forms or during your interview is viewed very seriously because it is taken as evidence of unreliability and dishonesty. Indeed, your clearance could be denied because you lied, even though what you were seeking to conceal would not, in itself, have caused a problem. Furthermore, your clearance could be revoked at a later date if the lie subsequently comes to light. It is simply not worth it.

Why Do Some Clearance Investigations Take Longer Than Others?

Your request for a clearance investigation may be delayed before it gets to DSS because of internal processing requirements of the requester. Incomplete or inaccurate completion of your security forms also delays an investigation. In other cases an investigation takes more time due to special situations such as the need to cover multiple geographic areas, especially overseas locations; difficulty in locating records and people who know you; and, expanding the investigation to clear up discrepancies.

Can I Appeal A Clearance Denial?

Yes. If you are notified of an intent to deny or revoke your security clearance, you have the right to appeal this determination. Procedures regarding filing an appeal will be provided to you at that time.