Secret clearance. What's all involved with obtaining one?

I was conversing with a seat mate on a long flight. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her I was with the Department of State. She asked what I did there and I told her that I was a Facilities Maintenance Specialist (basically a property manager). She got rather wide-eyed and asked “Are you with, you know, the CIA?” I looked around conspiratorially and said in a low voice: “Well, we do a lot of wet work.” She seemed both impressed and horrified. :smiley:

ROTFLMAO - one of my childhood buddies was interviewed, and the FBI interviewers asked him if I could be coerced into doing something, and his response was to laugh and say if there was any coercion going on, I would be the one doing it. I was usually the boss instigator in our childhood shenanegans. [And yes, like any small town, anything we got into, Mom knew about before we managed to get home to play innocent. sigh]

I have held a number of federal and state level clearances since I was 16 for various jobs and life situations [ for a submariners spouse they actually do pull a clearance, I guess in case he talks in his sleep or whatever. I had already held a higher clearance for a civilian job, so I never worried about clearing or not.]

I had a Secret for two years doing work for the the Air Force, and then later for 2-3 years for the Army, and then for two years I had a successfully adjudicated BI for U.S. Customs. In all that time I never saw one classified document, although I could have had incidental exposure.

I guess my current Public Trust was probably a more in-depth BI than for a Secret. They interviewed me and some friends, then asked those friends who else they should interview that I didn’t list myself.

I was in the same era. I joined the Air Force in '80.

Posters have mentioned the SF86. If you’re not aware, you can download this form now and get a head start on it. There is a lot of information required and it becomes more difficult the more you’ve moved around over the past decade. You’ll need to list all your addresses, references, etc. The form also has some general information about the entire process and possible interview, etc. You can download it here:

Doesn’t hurt to get a head start on it.

Looking at the form will give you an idea of what information you will need to collect. But the actual filing will almost certainly be done through eQIP.

Which is why it’s even more important to have an SF86 pre-filled out. The eQIP is going to have the same questions, but you’ll only have a couple days to complete it. From the time the applicant has access to eQIP until the time that it must be completed entirely is only 5 days. If you go over that 5 days, the process has to start all over. It’s a bit of a hassle to say the least. It might even mean they hire someone else who managed to complete the entries on time. By filling out an SF86 prior to starting the eQIP, you’ll have all the answers ready to go.

I would have thought the very first requirement for applying for security clearance would be the fabled “need to know”.

For the record, I have obtained “Secret” clearance in my life, which as noted isn’t all that high a hurdle, right out of college as part of my first job, which involved programming software using digital map data (including terrain elevation) from the Air Force that were classified as “Secret”.

I kind of doubt one can just go apply for Secret clearance ahead of time, the way one might apply for a driver’s license or even a gun permit. If the job requires it and you haven’t got it already, you will apply for it as part of doing the job - not getting the job.

I assume that means that whatever interview and background checking process is involved in getting this job, will essentially be the same as getting the clearance. Though if for some reason I’d been denied that clearance but was already employed, I guess they’d have found crappier tasks for me to do, or simply let me go.

Thanks everyone for the heads up. The interview went really well, I thought. Here’s hoping they don’t low ball me. Waiting for another callback.

For many jobs, potential candidates must apply for a clearance as a phase in the hiring process. Failure to get the clearance will result in not being hired.

Good luck!!


OK, but I could swear I recall (though we are talking nigh 30 years ago at this point) that the form I filled out to apply for the clearance included a part about why I needed it (for what job) that was filled in by the company. I guess that could be part of the job application process as well as something they did with/for me after I was already employed, but my point was, I didn’t think you could do it yourself as a private citizen for no context other than “I’d like to see some Secret stuff please, you can totes trust me”.

You need to be sponsored by an organization with a mission that requires the clearance, but as you alluded to, having the clearance isn’t the same thing as being able to use the clearance. There are plenty of people with an active clearance and no “need to know,” who therefore don’t get access to classified information. So if a company sponsors a team to get clearances and then loses the contract, or decides to go a different direction, it’s really no harm.

I was interviewed about a friend for his clearance. One of the questions was where we met - same Army unit in Germany. A few questions later they asked if my friend had ever traveled outside the United States.

My uncle in law got a job with the US government that required some sort of clearance. The Dept of Defense showed up on our door step unannounced one evening. The guys were professional but didn’t seem to have a sense of humor, The biggest problem I had was the fact that I had just gotten married to his niece 3 weeks before they showed up. I met the guy exactly once at the wedding, (He lived in another state). When they showed up, my wife had been called into work so it was just me. The only thing I could answer was the fact that he was my wife’s uncle and that he lived in “X” state, I didn’t even know what city he lived in at the time. I told them all of this up front and offered them other days when my wife would be home, but they insisted on asking the whole list of questions anyway. Every time I answered, “I don’t know”, they would ask me why I didn’t know and I would have to answer that I met him at the wedding for 5 minutes maybe and that he lived out of state, therefore wasn’t at the family bar-b-ques, etc. It was just odd. It’s like they aren’t allowed to use logic and say right away, “Oh Mrs 911 will be here Tuesday? We will come back then.” At the end of it, they asked me when Mrs 911 would be available and came back on that day. They still asked me to sit in and asked me all the questions again.

+1. The company has a contract where the government requires all workers on that contract to have a clearance, so everybody gets cleared as a matter of course. What any individual sees or doesn’t see is a different matter.

As implied by this answer, as **robardin **says, you can’t just apply for a clearance as an individual. Otherwise workers in the job market having a TS would not be so rare. As it is, an existing TS is worth a pay premium. Creating people with a TS is kind of like mining BitCoins.

Correct. Nobody can just apply without being a candidate for position that requires it. And the application will be handled by the sponsoring agency. The individual isn’t just going to get it on his/her own the way they would pursue a CDL or some other certification.

Years ago, I applied for and received a secret clearance as a contractor in the Pentagon. It was no big deal, although it took some effort to research and find my draft registration number.

Interestingly, when my daughter joined the Israeli Defense Force, she had to fill out paperwork that included questions about who her teachers were as far back as when she was in elementary school in the U.S. She spent many evenings at home calling her friends in the U.S. to go over teacher names.

I’ve had a Secret clearance for nigh on 20 years now, and just recently completed my re-investigation. Like everyone else has said before–it’s not a big deal, so long as you’re honest and up front with what they ask you.

I just wanted to pop in and say that you can request a copy of your Security Clearance File through FOIA. A lot of people don’t take advantage of this; not everything is released though. It is considered Official Use Only, and some material is withheld under certain exemptions (Your NCIC “criminal record” is considered ‘Law Enforcement’ information, so you won’t get to see that). However, I got my file back recently, and it contained all of the releasable material, including my old SF86s (good to keep for reference) and notes from interviews with others.

I’d forgotten I’d had some of these friends from way back!