Top Secret Clearance


A Top Secret clearance, formally known as Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), opens the door to high-level government and military jobs. Those with TS/SCI include generals, military aides, captains of Navy ships and enlisted service members working in intelligence units.


The process takes months or a year, depending on the individual’s background. A standard clearance investigation includes questions on a 129-page SF86 form about employment, education and residence; foreign connections and travel; mental health and drug history.

Background Investigations

Top-secret clearance is the lowest level of security clearance that permits access to classified national security information, including Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). The process to obtain a Top Secret clearance includes a thorough background investigation.

Before starting the security clearance process, a potential clearance candidate completes Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF86) and other forms. This questionnaire requires extensive personal information such as names, addresses and dates of birth for all relatives, past and present employment, education, military service and travel.

A security clearance investigator reviews the SF86 and other data, conducts preliminary checks to determine whether further investigation is needed. A criminal and financial history check, credit checks, local agency checks, national agency record checks for all relatives, scanned fingerprint checks, in-depth subject interviews and select scoping are the main elements of the background investigation for a Top Secret clearance.

The investigation covers all aspects of an individual’s life and may include questions about a person’s loyalty, trustworthiness and suitability for a sensitive position. Since 2008, the issue of financial considerations has been the most frequently cited in cases handled by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals. Issues like bankruptcies, excessive debt and foreign influence have also been a frequent focus. The background investigation can take anywhere from several months to a year.

Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI)

A SSBI is the first step in getting top secret 광주흥신소 clearance. This investigation includes a full range of checks, including fingerprinting and interviewing your family, friends and acquaintances. It can take 6 to 18 months and requires periodic reinvestigations, known as SSBI period reinvestigations (SSBI-PR).

The government classifies national security information in three levels: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Those who obtain a TS/SCI clearance have access to classified information that would damage the United States if it were disclosed. The process for obtaining a TS/SCI is very different than other levels of clearances. In addition to the standard SSBI, you must undergo an extensive vetting process and submit a detailed disclosure statement.

Some SSBI investigations include a polygraph, or lie detector test. This is not required for all TS/SCI positions, but it may be a condition of receiving the clearance. In addition, you may be required to renounce any overseas travel and to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the vetting process.

Many jobs working with sensitive information require a top secret clearance or the ability to get one quickly. Your employer, whether a government department or a contractor, will help you with the process. Typically, you will start on a temporary basis while your SSBI is underway and continue to work on a conditional basis until the investigation is complete.

Multiple Scope Background Investigation (MSBI)

For some positions, a Top Secret clearance may be needed to access sensitive information classified as Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). This level of national security clearance is reserved for individuals who have a need-to-know SCI and require unescorted access to FBI facilities. A Top Secret clearance will only be granted once the individual has passed all requirements for a Secret level clearance, including the background investigation.

For this reason, an SSBI is one of the most time-consuming investigations for a security clearance. It includes all elements of a traditional BI but adds in-depth subject interviews, additional local agency checks and NACs, credit and interview of developed character references. These inquiries typically cover the last ten years of an individual’s life, but may expand beyond that if necessary to meet investigative standards for a TS/SCI clearance.

It’s important for individuals seeking a Top Secret clearance to be fully honest with investigators. Providing a full account of one’s entire past can help to speed up the process. Attempts to conceal negative information will not be successful, as investigators are highly trained and accustomed to seeing patterns in behavior. Providing an honest account can also help to avoid reinvestigations that could ultimately lead to denial of a clearance or a lapse in the security clearance status. Lastly, an applicant for a TS/SCI clearance will probably be required to undergo polygraph testing.

Expandable Focused Investigation (EFI)

When a potential disqualifying issue surfaces during the Tier 3 or Tier 5 Personnel Security Investigation (PSI), an Expandable Focused Investigation is initiated to develop all relevant information. The investigative product includes a thorough interview and record check of the individual, as well as the use of commercial and government databases that are lawfully available to investigators. An EFI is required for top-secret clearance, DOE “Q” access authorization and certain other special access program information.

During the investigation, the candidate is interviewed by a trained personnel security specialist, and an assessment of their character is made. In most cases, a clearance applicant’s eligibility for a security clearance is determined by their answers to the questions in Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86) or its electronic counterpart e-QIP (electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing). The SF-86 contains the most important data that investigators seek, and providing inaccurate or incomplete responses can significantly slow down the process.

The paper version of the SF-86 is 130 pages, and the electronic form is shorter, but the questions are just as detailed. Incorrect or inconsistent answers can also delay the process, and in some cases, may require a re-investigation. The most common issues that lead to denials of clearance or revocation of a clearance are financial considerations, criminal conduct, alcohol and drug involvement and foreign influence, although the list of possible concerns changes from year to year.