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What is a security clearance?

If you are new to the process, or maybe need to revisit it, you may have questions about exactly what a security clearance is. Federal government security clearances are awarded to certain personnel and companies when they are eligible to access classified information or facilities. There are three leaves of personnel security clearances including Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Because a security clearance can be important to the livelihood of military personnel or others in government, as well as contractors, it is an important process to be familiar with.

The Department of Defense manages security clearances. The Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office, which is part of the Defense Security Services, processes all security clearance applications and adjudicates them as well. A security clearance can remain in effect as long as access to classified information is part of the job function of the party with security clearance but may be subject to periodic reinvestigation.

In addition, a security clearance may expire after a period of time but it can also be possible to have a security clearance reinstated after it has been terminated. An adverse decision concerning your security clearance can be appealed by filing a notice of appeal. A written appeal brief will need to be submitted and will be reviewed by the Appeal Board at Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals. Appeals can generally only be granted based on an error made by the Administrative Judge.

Having a security clearance can be essential to many job functions within the military, government and for some contractors which is why it is important to understand the processes of obtaining one, having one reinstated or appealing the denial of a security clearance. The security process can be complex which can make having trained guidance useful throughout the process.

Source:, "Introduction to Security Clearances," Accessed May 18, 2018

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