Security clearance process, preparedness part of military duty

  • Published
  • By John McCann
  • 436th Security Forces Squadron installation security manager
In some cases a security clearance can be beneficial for people when they leave the service. Its valuable while in the military as well and determines who has access to sensitive or classified information. At a minimum, all personnel require a background check so they can use government computers.

The higher the clearance required for a job, the more in-depth the paperwork gets. A Top Secret clearance is only good for 5 years while a Secret clearance is valid for 10 years based off the previous closed investigation date.

When a person enlists or receives a commission in the Air Force, the process for a security clearance begins with a recruiter. For civilians, the local civilian personnel office will complete the application for new civilian hires and submit the clearance request.

Once a security clearance is up for renewal, personnel work the process with their unit or base security managers. Periodic reinvestigations are required to be submitted at least six months prior to its expiration.

Members are typically notified by their security manager and will begin the process online through Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing.

"The e-QIP was a fast, paper-free method of submission," said Lt. Col. Craig La Fave, 326th Airlift Squadron commander. "The system was relatively user-friendly and allowed me to input information in multiple sessions. It also allowed me to return to prior pages to change any information prior to my final submission."

Although the online application has streamlined the process, there is still a great deal of time involved to gather and input the information.

"Depending on the amount of times you have moved and the type of clearance you are trying to get, this can turn into hours or days of time researching and uploading the information," said Master Sgt. Michael Grove, 436th Operations Support Squadron security manager. "Then just when you think you have it all, you have to sit down with (the unit security manager) and we try to find all the errors. It can be as small as not checking a required box to missing entire contact information."

That's why it is extremely important to keep good personal records, he stressed.

A good record all around is beneficial when reapplying for a clearance.

Applications are reviewed by the 436th Medical Group to ensure applicants are mentally fit as well as checked by the base security manger at the 436th Security Forces Squadron who conducts a local background check before sending it to the Office of Personnel Management.

The OPM will perform a national criminal check, credit check and could review medical records and interview the applicant to resolve possible discrepancies. Once complete, the application is forwarded to the Air Force Central Adjudication Facility, the sole authority for granting clearance eligibility for the U.S. Air Force.

Having a security clearance is a privilege, not a right.

"Without a clearance you could be out of a job or missing out on a good one," said Sergeant Grove.

There are 13 reasons why someone may not be granted a clearance. They include: allegiance to the United States, foreign influence, foreign preference, sexual behavior, personal conduct, financial considerations, alcohol consumption, drug involvement, emotional, mental and personality disorders, criminal conduct, security violations, involvement in outside activities and misuse of Information Technology Systems.

If clearance is not granted for any reason, a Security Information File is generated and the clearance is suspended. SIF's contain derogatory information on why it may not be in the best interest of national security to grant a clearance.

Financial considerations account for 85 percent of all SIFs. However, there are programs in place on base to assist members with their finances. The Airman and Family Readiness Center offers several classes on budgeting and financial management.

The member is required to provide proof the disqualifying factors have been mitigated to their security managers within 60 days. The clearance will be permanently denied if not received by AFCAF in 60 days.

This will affect the ability to deploy as most positions require a Secret clearance. Additionally, access to government computers is denied and personnel will lose their restricted area badge.

Once denied, a person cannot be reinstated for 12 months from the date of denial. After the 12-month time period has passed, personnel must show proof the disqualifying factor has been corrected. Unit commanders are also required to write a memorandum for AFCAF detailing how behavior has improved and to request a reevaluation of the case.

Anyone who thinks they may have a problem that could impact a future clearance should contact their security manager, supervisor or look into programs on base that are available to help.