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Background Investigation

A prerequisite for accessing classified national security information is the completion and favorable outcome of a background investigation.

The adjudicative process is the careful weighing of a number of variables known as the "whole person concept" and includes an examination of a sufficient period of your life to determine if you are an acceptable security risk.

Available, reliable information about you - past and present, favorable and unfavorable - is considered in reaching a determination of your eligibility for a security clearance.

Background Investigators are required to identify, locate, and interview a sufficient number of people who know you well, including neighbors, co-workers, supervisors, and, if applicable, former spouses. They want to talk to as many knowledgeable people as possible to get a balanced, accurate, and comprehensive picture of you. Later, you may have an opportunity to refute any misleading or false information that was reported about you.

When investigators are conducting interviews with your references - those that you supply and those that are developed by the agency - and your past and current employers, they are trying to determine particular information about you.

Many types of background investigations involve a personal interview, which is used to validate the data you filled out in your SF86 and clarify any other information about you.

Investigators will be sure to verify:

  • Your U.S. citizenship and the citizenship of immediate family members
  • Your date and place of birth
  • Your education level
  • Your employment for the last seven years
  • Your financial status
  • Completion of the SF86 and that it is current within 90 days of the investigation.

Local agency checks will be conducted to review your criminal history within the jurisdictions where you have lived, worked or attended school.

Specifically, there are 13 Adjudication Guidelines that adjudicators consider when determining eligibility for access to classified information and eligibility to perform sensitive duties:

During the investigative process, inappropriate conduct from your past may be uncovered. This is not automatic grounds for denial of a clearance. In fact, the investigators will look deeply into the actual incident and determine its relevance on a case-by-case basis.

They will consider the following factors:

  • The nature, extent, and seriousness of the conduct;
  • The circumstances surrounding the conduct, such as your knowledgeable participation;
  • The frequency of the conduct and how recent it was;
  • The extent to which participation was voluntary;
  • The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other permanent behavioral changes;
  • The motivation for the conduct;
  • The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress; and
  • The likelihood of continuation or recurrence.

Each case must be judged on its own merits, and final determination remains the responsibility of the specific department or agency. Any doubt concerning personnel being considered for access to classified information will be resolved in favor of national security.

Federal agencies will normally accept another agency's investigation as the basis for granting a security clearance, provided your last security clearance investigation was completed within the past five years for a Top Secret clearance and 10 years for a Secret clearance, and you have not had a break in service of more than two years. Also considered is whether there have been any significant changes in your situation since your last investigation. Some federal agencies might have additional investigative or adjudicative requirements that must be met prior to their accepting a clearance granted by another agency.

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