Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)

Reciprocity of Access Eligibility Determinations as Approved by the Records Access and Information Security Policy Coordinating Committee National Security Council

Delays in security clearances and in access to highly sensitive programs (Sensitive Compartmented Information, Special Access Programs, Q Clearances, and similar programs) are a matter of concern from an economic, technological, and national security perspective. As agencies struggle to reduce processing times, mutual and reciprocal acceptance of investigations and adjudications by all agencies makes even more sense today. Duplicative actions create unnecessary delays, needlessly consume limited resources, and place national security at risk by further delaying the return of equilibrium to the personnel security clearance process.

Determinations of eligibility for access to classified information are separate from suitability determinations with respect to the hiring or retention of persons for employment or any other personnel actions.

In furtherance of Executive Order 12968, "Access to Classified Information," Section 2.4, reciprocal acceptance of access eligibility determinations will be implemented in the following manner:

Collateral Security Clearances

  • An employee with an existing security clearance (not including an interim clearance) who transfers or changes employment status is eligible for a security clearance at the same or lower level at the gaining activity without additional or duplicative adjudication, investigation, or reinvestigation, and without any requirement to complete or update a security questionnaire unless the gaining activity has substantial information indicating that the standards of Executive Order 12968 may not be satisfied.
  • The "substantial information" exception to reciprocity of security clearances does not authorize requesting a new security questionnaire, reviewing existing background investigations or security questionnaires, or initiating new investigative checks (such as a credit check) to determine whether such "substantial information" exists.
  • The gaining activity may request copies of background investigations and/or security questionnaires from the existing or losing activity for purposes of establishing a personnel security file, but eligibility for a reciprocal security clearance may not be delayed nor may there be additional or duplicative adjudication after the documents are received.
  • A security clearance is confirmed by the security authority of the gaining activity by verifying with the existing or losing activity or its security authority, as appropriate, the level of and basis for the security clearance. Where possible, automated databases should be used to confirm security clearances.
  • An employee shall immediately be granted a security clearance at the gaining activity provided the previous investigation is not more than seven years old (for TOP SECRET), ten years old (for SECRET), or fifteen years old (for CONFIDENTIAL). Gaining activities may accept investigations greater than these ages on a case-by-case basis. This does not negate the existing requirement to initiate reinvestigations in accordance with the national "Investigative Standards for Background Investigations for Access to Classified Information."

Highly Sensitive Programs

  • "Highly sensitive programs" mean Sensitive Compartmented Information, Special Access Programs, Q Clearances, and other similar programs.
  • The principles of reciprocity for collateral security clearances set forth above are also applicable for access to highly sensitive programs with the following exceptions:
  • Where the sensitivity level of a new highly sensitive program is not the same as the existing program to which the employee has access; or
  • Where the existing access to a highly sensitive program is based, under proper authority, on a waiver of or deviation from the program's adjudicative or investigative guidelines, or where the access is conditional, interim, or temporary.
  • The sensitive level of highly sensitive programs is determined from the investigative and adjudicative standards that are established at the time the program is approved; if programs use the same criteria for determining access, they are at the same sensitivity level.
  • If additional adjudication or investigation is necessary because a highly sensitive program is not at the same sensitivity level as the program to which the employee currently has access, only additional - not duplicative - investigative or adjudicative procedures may be pursued. Any additional investigative or adjudicative procedures will be completed in a timely manner.

Reporting of Inconsistent Practices

  • Each agency security authority shall designate in writing a point of contact to receive reports of practices contrary to these principles, and the points of contact will be published on appropriate websites.
  • Any such reports will be resolved in a timely manner.
  • For the purposes of establishing statistics regarding the effectiveness of reciprocity policies, agency points of contact shall provide copies of reports of practices contrary to these principles and their resolution to the Office of Management and Budget.

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