What is Military Security Clearance & What Does it Reveal About a Veteran Job Candidate?
Our military possesses information and technology which could aid our enemies, and its unauthorized release could compromise our national security. Therefore, only selected veterans, government personnel and companies are granted access by the Federal Government to classified information or facilities. In other words, “Loose lips sink ships.”
What Is a Security Clearance?
Security clearance investigations are managed by the Department of Defense and their purpose is to ensure eligibility for access to national security information granted by the Federal Government. The investigation focuses on character and conduct, emphasizing such factors as honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, financial responsibility, credit, criminal activity, emotional stability, and other pertinent areas.
WHAT ARE THE LEVELS OF SECURITY CLEARANCE?
All classified information in the military is housed under these categories:
- Confidential: Unauthorized disclosure could cause damage to the national security.
- Secret: Unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to the national security.
- Top Secret: Unauthorized disclosure could cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
Additionally, some classified information is so sensitive that even the extra protection measures applied to Top Secret information are not sufficient. This information is known as Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special Access Programs (SAP). Special SCI Access or SAP approval must be given to access this information.
The level of security clearance that military personnel and some civilian contractors need depends on their specific job and the information they need access to in order to perform their job. The U.S. government will cover the expense of security clearances for military service members and government employees.
HOW DO YOU GET A MILITARY SECURITY CLEARANCE?
The security clearance and investigation process is usually completed within an average of 60 days and the process consists of the following three steps:
The individual is offered a new job or assignment that requires a security clearance and they fill out a questionnaire to begin the investigation. The employer or sponsoring agency will decide what level of clearance is needed for the position and will require the suitable level of investigation.
An investigation is conducted on the individual. All investigations cover the last 10 years of an individuals’ background and consist of checks of national records and credit checks. They can also include interviews with individuals who know the candidate. Determining whether to grant a security clearance is based upon these guidelines:
- Allegiance to the U.S.
- Foreign Influence
- Foreign preference
- Sexual Behavior
- Personal Conduct
- Financial Considerations
- Alcohol Consumption
- Drug Involvement
- Emotional, Mental and Personality Disorders
- Criminal Conduct
- Security Violations
- Outside Activities Misuse of Information Technology Systems
- A formal judgement or decision is made at the conclusion of the investigation and security clearance is either granted or denied by the employer or sponsoring agency.
WHAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM A SECURITY CLEARANCE?
When reviewing the guidelines on whether to grant security clearance, there are multiple conditions that could raise a security concern and might disqualify the applicant for security clearance. There are generally four important areas that have the possibility to raise a security concern during a security clearances investigation. These can be broken down into the categories of dishonorable discharge, criminal convictions that result in a sentence in prison of over a year, drug addiction, and “criminal incompetence”.
In many cases, if a security clearance application is denied, applicants may need to provide further documentation or information and can file a notice of appeal by submitting a written appeal brief. The written appeal brief will be assessed by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals.
DO ALL MILITARY MEMBERS HAVE SECURITY CLEARANCE?
A very important aspect of many federal service jobs within all five branches of military is getting a security clearance. Members of the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, and Navy may need to obtain security clearances at some point during their time in the military.
Usually the need to obtain new security clearance is determined by the position or MOS. There are certain positions within the military that require security clearance in order to be able to access the information required to do that position. Once it is determined that a military personnel member requires a security clearance because of assignment or job, they are required to complete a Security Clearance Background Investigation Questionnaire.
HOW LONG IS A SECURITY CLEARANCE GOOD FOR?
A Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) is required every five years for a Top Secret Clearance; 10 years for a Secret Clearance; and 15 years for a Confidential Clearance. Clearance holders are subject to a random investigation at any time. Reinvestigations are more important than the original investigation because those individuals who have held security clearances longer are more likely to be working with increasingly critical information.
A security clearance is inactivated when someone leaves the military, government civilian job, or contractor job. It can be reactivated within 24 months, provided that the last background investigation falls within this above time frame.
HOW LONG DOES SECURITY CLEARANCE LAST AFTER LEAVING THE MILITARY?
After leaving the military, most often a security clearance is good for 24 months or 2 years. In some cases, it might be less than 24 months if the periodic investigation window of time will expire in less than two years from the time of separation from the military. For example, the periodic investigation window for a Secret clearance occurs every 10 years.
JOBS FOR VETERANS WITH SECURITY CLEARANCE
Veterans or soon to be service members with security clearance can hold an advantage in the job market when transitioning to civilian life and are seeking employment. There are multitudes of employers such as government agencies and commercial defense that are actively looking to find employees that have current security clearance positions. The skillsets of these in-demand positions can vary greatly but include programming, engineering, intelligence, accounting & finance, overseas careers and many more career opportunities.
Hiring veterans with security clearance is also in the best interest of employers as well. The investigation and background check stage for a security clearance can take anywhere from a few months all the way to over a year to be completed and can be costly to employers. There can be hundreds of thousands of background investigations that are pending security clearance backlogged at any given time. Most employers cannot afford to wait this long. For these reasons, recruiters and hiring managers many times actively seek out qualified veterans that possess security clearance.
WHAT DOES A SECURITY CLEARANCE TELL A RECRUITER ABOUT A VETERAN JOB SEEKER?
If a recruiter encounters a veteran seeking employment who has (or has had) a security clearance, it means that person has been thoroughly vetted by the Department of Defense and deemed eligible to handle and view classified information of varying degrees. It means their character and conduct are strong; they are honest and trustworthy; and they are reliable and financially responsible. These qualities, in addition to the many leadership skills and intangible attributes veterans possess, translate to: Hire veterans!