Intelligence & Security

Types of Security Clearances

A Security Clearance is issued by the head of a department, division, or agency of the federal government. The type of security clearance that one can be approved for also depends upon the department, division, or agency involved. For classification purposes, the types of security clearances are:


This refers to material, which, if improperly disclosed, could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security. The vast majority of military personnel are given this very basic level of clearance. This level needs to be reinvestigated every fifteen (15) years.


The unauthorized disclosure of secret information could be expected to cause serious damage to national security. This level is reinvestigated every ten (10) years.


Individuals with this clearance have access to information or material that could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if it was released without authorization. This level needs to be reinvestigated every five (5) years.

Security Clearance Phases

There are three (3) main phases to receiving a security clearance:

  1. Application: The first phase is the application process. This involves verification of U.S. citizenship, fingerprinting and completion of the Personnel Security Questionnaire (SF-86). The Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system (e-QIP) allows applicants to electronically enter, update, and transmit their personal investigative data over a secure Internet connection to their employing agency or security management office for review and approval of the personnel security investigation request.
  2. Background Check: The second phase involves the actual investigation of your background. Most of the background check is conducted by the Defense Security Service (DSS).
  3. Adjudication: The final phase is the adjudication phase. The results from the investigative phase are reviewed. The information that has been gathered is evaluated based on thirteen factors determined by the Department of Defense (DoD). Some examples of areas they consider are; allegiance to the United States, criminal and personal conduct, and substance abuse or mental disorders. Clearance is granted or denied following this evaluation process.

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Updated: 8/5/2021

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