A TS/SCI clearance, or top secret clearance, with access to sensitive compartmentalized information is a highly specialized security clearance that requires not only a comprehensive background investigation, but a certain level of need-to-know. For a TS/SCI clearance, for instance, your employer would have to verify your need to access certain classified materials not available to personnel with typical top secret clearances. Simply put, to obtain a TS/SCI clearance, you would need to have a job requiring the clearance and pass a background check based on verifiable need-to-know.
Obtain a position requiring a TS/SCI clearance. You must be employed or sponsored by the federal government, a contractor, the military or a private sector company whose job requirements, including need-to-know, warrant a TS/SCI clearance. You cannot gain a TS/SCI or any other type of security clearance on your own as a private entity. Once you are hired, your employer or cleared contractor will proceed with your background investigation through an investigating agency.
Complete the online SF-86 or e-QIP Questionnaire for National Security Positions designated by your employer. For the TS/SCI clearance, you will need to supply detailed information dating back to your 18th birthday, including past employers, schools, financial information, foreign contacts and personal references. You will need to list all foreign travel, even trips taken prior to your 18th birthday. Once submitted, your questionnaire will be forwarded to an external federal agency, such as the FBI or the OPM, to investigate your background. You may be subject to several interviews throughout the background investigation process.
Attend each interview pertaining to your background investigation, depending on your employer. The FBI, for example, requires a Personnel Security Interview (PSI) as well as a pre-polygraph interview with a polygraph exam for top secret clearances or higher. A PSI interview is designed to verify the information given on the SF-86 security questionnaire. You may also need to undergo a polygraph examination if you are a federal government employee. If so, a polygraph agent will ask you questions based in part on the answers provided in the security questionnaire.
Towards the end of the clearance process, the investigating agency will adjudicate your TS/SCI clearance package to determine whether to grant or deny your application. The investigating agency will decide based on your loyalty to the United States, consistencies between your information and their findings and case-by-case consideration of derogatory information, such as credit issues or traffic violations. Once the adjudication phase has been cleared, proceed with your duties in concurrence with your TS/SCI clearance.
- David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images