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Philadelphia and Washington DC Security Clearance Blog

What kind of security clearances are there?

Pennsylvania residents who apply for jobs with the federal government could end up working with sensitive information. In order to ensure that those applicants can be trusted with that information, the government requires them to apply for and obtain security clearances. The time, money and thoroughness required during the process depends on the type of security clearance required for the position.

Obviously, the more sensitive the information an applicant will see, the higher the clearance required, which means more time, cost and investigation. Three levels of security clearance exist. The first, called confidential, would cause some harm to national security if an individual revealed sensitive information. The second, called secret, would seriously harm the security of the country if an individual revealed sensitive information. The third, called top secret, would lead to grave harm to national security if sensitive information was revealed.

Will a 'checkered past' keep you from a security clearance?

If you are like many other Philadelphia residents, you may not have made the best decisions in your formative years. Perhaps you have a "checkered past," which could jeopardize your ability to obtain a security clearance. Even if your records were expunged, that may not prevent the government from knowing about it. 

Were you caught drinking underage? Do you have a DUI on your record? Maybe during your college days you experimented with drugs, but it never went any further than that. Even though you consider these and other transgressions youthful mistakes, the government may not see it that way. When considering whether to grant you a security clearance, issues such as these could get in the way, which means that you may not get the job you want.

Whistleblower stripped of security clearance over military app

Anthony Kim noticed a problem with the Navy's tactical mapping apps known as KILSWITCH and APASS. The apps were designed for use in combat, but soldiers were downloading them to personal devices that lacked proper encryption. This opened the apps to a hacking risk. Kim, a civilian program analyst, knew this problem posed a very real danger in combat. He works for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. He is a major with 28 years of military service. He was a Navy pilot and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), someone who orders combat airstrikes.   

Security clearance issues: People don't work in the same job now

Unlike decades ago, people across the country, including many here in Pennsylvania, tend not to remain in one job for 20 to 30 years anymore. Instead, they move around for many reasons such as the need for a new challenge, boredom or a change in direction in life. In any case, having a security clearance under these circumstances can get dicey since each new position may require a "new" clearance. Many people are now saying that it would just be easier for a security clearance to be attached to a person instead of a job.

Of course, people would still only receive a security clearance the first time when applying for a position that requires one. Thereafter, it would belong to them unless or until someone determines that it needs to be taken away. This way, if an individual transfers between governmental agencies or private contractors who work with the government, he or she would already have a clearance.

Security clearances: Obligation, affection or influence?

When Pennsylvania residents apply for federal jobs, they may not immediately consider that who they live with matters. In fact, it could matter substantially if the jobs they apply for require security clearances. The government will want to know about the people in the lives of the applicants.

The reason it is important is because an individual could learn a significant amount of classified information that affects the country's national security. If someone close to him or her could somehow extract the information, that would, obviously, cause an issue. For this reason, the federal government wants to know whether your relationship with someone you live with is out of obligation, affection or influence.

The first step in getting a security clearance: Form SF86 eQIP

Many Pennsylvania residents who want to work for the federal government, for federal contractors or the military will not be able to do their jobs without being able to handle classified information. This means that a security clearance is vital. In order to obtain one, it will be necessary to get through the application process, which begins with filling out Form SF86 eQIP.

This new version of the form is the electronic version of the same form. The questions remain the same, along with the way that they should be answered. Honesty is always the best policy. People who fail to answer the questions asked or leave things out because the question did not address that part of an answer will find themselves in hot water.

Protecting a security clearance when separating from the military

Inevitably everyone leaves military service. If a Pennsylvania military member with a security clearance intends to enter the civilian job market after separating from the military, it may be a good idea to make sure the clearance remains intact prior to leaving. That clearance could turn out to be the deciding factor in whether a particular candidate obtains a desired position.

Even with all of the changes happening when it comes to security clearances, not everyone keeps track of when their clearance expires. Anyone reaching a separation date needs to determine whether his or her clearance is still active, or at least current. Despite the approximately 700,000-application backlog, those with current and active statuses retain priority over those with expired or new clearances.

Going into the private sector? Keep that security clearance

Ending a military career or leaving a government job for the private sector? It may be advantageous to make sure to leave with a security clearance. Many civilian companies give preferential treatment to applicants who have active security clearances, which -- right or wrong -- make some Pennsylvania residents more valuable to the private sector than others when applying for jobs.

Why? In the simplest terms, it costs time and money to obtain a security clearance. Remembering when a Pennsylvania resident first obtained a security clearance, he or she may recall that it took some time for it to come through.

Answering some questions about security clearances

Working for the federal government often involves hearing, seeing and knowing about certain matters sensitive to the defense of this country. For those employees, including many from Pennsylvania, security clearances are essential in order to be trusted with the type of information that could jeopardize the safety of this country. Recent news stories about the revocation of clearances by the current administration have raised questions for some people.

In order to obtain a security clearance, applicants must go through a rigorous background check that delves into nearly every aspect of a person's life. Nothing is private during these investigations and everything is under scrutiny. Receiving a clearance is a privilege, and keeping it requires diligence, integrity and the ability to keep classified information confidential. Of course, people make mistakes, and fortunately, those mistakes do not have to mean revocation.

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