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The Personnel Security Clearance Process

A security clearance, also known as an access authorization, is an administrative determination that an individual is eligible for access to classified information or special nuclear material. The clearance process involves collecting and evaluating information about an individual’s background to determine their judgment, reliability, and honesty. In order to accomplish this, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducts various types of background investigations which may consist of a fingerprint check, credit search, records check, and interviews with individuals to verify the applicant’s character, loyalty, current and past residences, employment, and education. The following are required as part of the investigative process:

Department of Energy Acquisition Regulation (DEAR) Security Clause for Contractors

In accordance with 48 CFR Parts 904, 952 and 970, all contracts and subcontracts involving DOE access authorizations will require background reviews, and tests for the absence of any illegal drug, as defined in DOE regulations of uncleared personnel (employment applicants and current employees), who will require access authorizations. Background reviews are not required for DOE access authorizations applicants who possess a current access authorization from another Federal agency or whose access authorization may be re-approved without a federal background investigation pursuant to Executive Order 12968.  

Drug Testing

The DOE Order 472.2, Personnel Security requires negative results of a drug test taken within 60 calendar days of the individual’s SF-86 or SF-86C signature.

e-Fingerprint Submission

Personal Identity Verification (PIV) is a national requirement under the August 27, 2004, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). PIV is accomplished through the collection of electronic fingerprints and the background investigation (NACI). Currently under NNSA policy, all federal and contractor employees that are applying for a DOE security clearance must have their fingerprints electronically submitted prior to submitting the applicant package or being initiated into the electronic Questionnaire for National Security Positions (QNSP) database (e-QIP).

e-QIP Completion

Once you've successfully completed your drug testing and e-fingerprint submission, your site security office will invite you to the e-QIP portal where you will log in and complete your SF-86.  Questions on the SF-86 relate to residence, employment, education, arrests, foreign association, finances, drug/alcohol use, etc. Once the SF-86 is completed and certified, it is released electronically through e-QIP to the CPSO where it is reviewed and released to OPM or FBI; in turn, initiating the background investigation.

What Happens Next?

Once OPM /FBI receives a complete and correct e-QIP package, an investigation is scheduled which typically includes various record checks (employment, criminal, credit, etc.), a personal subject interview with the individual and interviews with neighbors, co-workers and references.     The length of time for completion of the investigation depends on the type of investigation that is necessary and other factors including the presence of derogatory information.  Once the investigation is complete, OPM sends The Office of Personnel and Facility Clearances and Classification (OPFCC) the background investigation to adjudicate and render a decision regarding the security clearance.  The timelines associated with the entire process depends on the type of clearance requested and the complexity of the case.  However; as an example for calendar year 2013, the average timeframe for “Q” requests was 97 days, and for “L” requests was 54 days.  See Clearance Adjudication for more information on how a decision is reached.

Basic Clearance Process Diagram: