Transferring And Maintaining Security Clearances

Updated: July 30, 2021
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    There are many reasons why a military member or civilian employee of a government agency is required to have a security clearance. Employees may not have direct contact with sensitive, confidential, or classified information, but their very presence in a workplace that handles such information or data may require it.

    Once an applicant has received a security clearance, it’s easy to assume that is the end of the line where background checks, personal histories, and overall suitability to have the clearance are concerned. But what is the reality?

    Do Security Clearances Transfer To Other Government Agencies?

    The short answer to this question is, “It depends”. In many cases a security clearance may travel with the employee or service member to a new job or assignment if certain conditions apply.

    According to the U.S. Department of State official site, “Federal agencies will normally accept another agency’s investigation as the basis for granting a security clearance, provided your last security clearance investigation was completed within the past 5 years for a Top Secret clearance and 10 years for a Secret clearance, and you have not had a break in service of more than 2 years.”

    Additional Investigation May Be Required

    Even if your security clearance does travel with you, if you have had “any significant changes” (according to the U.S. Department of State) you may be re-investigated or there may be “adjudicative requirements that must be met prior to their accepting a clearance granted by another agency.”

    Gaps In Federal Service May Require Re-Investigation

    If a service member or employee has been out of federal service for more than two years, a new investigation will be required. For gaps of employment less than two years, a security clearance may be “revalidated” at the discretion of the government.

    Do Security Clearances Transfer To Private Sector Jobs?

    According to the U.S. Department of State, “Security clearances only apply to positions that fall under the purview of the federal government.”

    Will I Be Required To Sign A Non-Disclosure Agreement To Get A Security Clearance?

    Those applying for security clearances should expect to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as a condition of receiving the clearance. If the employee or service member transfers to another assignment requiring a clearance, a new NDA may be required. Consider the guidance from the U.S. Department of Defense Defense Security Service (DSS) official site, which states in part:

    “NISPOM Paragraph 3-106 requires that an individual issued an initial personnel security clearance (PCL) execute a Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (SF-312) prior to being granted access to classified information and that the completed form is forwarded to the Cognizant Security Agency for retention.”

    Such requirements are not unique to DSS. In the past, the Army Information Security Program has issued guidance that requires an NDA in conjunction with getting a clearance, but also advises that refusal to sign an NDA will result in being denied the security clearance or having an existing clearance revoked.


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    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

    Written by Team