1. Does PERSEREC conduct background investigations on the general public?
PERSEREC does not conduct
background investigations on the general public. In fact, most personnel
security investigations for the Department of Defense (DoD) are conducted
not by the DoD, but by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and its
contractors. Our job is to do the research and develop the automated systems
to improve personnel security for the DoD. Much of our work focuses on
policy and processes to improve the efficiency and fairness of personnel
2. Is PERSEREC a defense contractor or a government agency?
PERSEREC is a government
entity—a division of the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) which is a
component of the Defense Human Resources Activity (DHRA). However, we have a
contingent of contractor employees collocated at our facility who contribute
to our research efforts.
3. What does personnel security in the Department of Defense mean?
Personnel security is a
program for ensuring, to as great an extent as reasonable, that civilian
employees, military service members, and defense contractor employees have
been properly assessed for trustworthiness and reliability to be in a
position of trust. The DoD must make a determination that cleared employees
are loyal to the United States, free of conditions that might impair their
judgment, and not vulnerable to personal compromise as a result of serious
indebtedness or past and current behaviors. The Department must also ensure
that trusted personnel are aware of their security responsibilities for the
protection of classified and sensitive information and are alert to the
risks of espionage and terrorist activities. Check the Online Guide to
Security Responsibilities on the Products page of this website.
4. Why have many of the most damaging spies held a high-level security clearance?
While there may have been no
justification for denying a clearance to these individuals at the time of
their initial selection for a position of trust, people change over time.
Issues develop, sometimes years later, that render a person vulnerable to
compromise or impel that person to engage in illegal behavior. A major
challenge for personnel security programs is to identify and address
potential issues and vulnerabilities of members of the current workforce
before they develop into espionage-related activities.
5. Who actually makes decisions about security clearances?
These decisions (or
eligibility determinations) are made by personnel security adjudicators who
are located at the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF). An
adjudicator is a government official who makes a decision about eligibility
for access to classified information based on all available investigative
information. Adjudicators can also revoke an existing clearance if
sufficient information comes to light demonstrating that continued
eligibility would present an unacceptable risk to national security.
6. On what grounds could the government deny me a security clearance or remove it
after it has been granted?
The criteria for obtaining
and keeping a security clearance are explained in the Adjudicators’ Desk
Reference (ADR) located on the Products page of this website. There are 13 Adjudicative Guidelines that include
reasons to disqualify an applicant’s eligibility for access to classified
information. For each of these guidelines there is also a list of mitigating
factors that might justify the granting or retention of a clearance despite
the existence of a disqualifying factor.
7. What can I do to keep my security clearance after it has been granted?
The ADR on the Products page can provide helpful guidance to the cleared employee regarding what
to do (and not do) in his or her private and professional life to help
ensure the integrity of their security clearance. The best general advice is
be smart; don’t take chances such as drinking and driving, scrupulously obey
the law, and if you develop a financial, drinking, or emotional problem,
seek counseling or treatment. Report suspicious solicitations from unknown
persons. Remember that you have been entrusted with national security
information and, because of this, you bear a special responsibility not
carried by most other citizens.
8. If the current threat to
national security is coming from international terrorist groups, why are we
still concerned about espionage?
National security continues
to be threatened by espionage as well as by terrorism. According to a 2008
report from the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened 55 new economic espionage cases
and pursued 88 pending cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made
158 arrests resulting in 187 indictments and 143 convictions for
export-related criminal violations, and the Department of Commerce Bureau of
Industry and Security participated in more than 792 export investigations
resulting in 40 criminal convictions. Espionage against the United States
continues to be a standard practice that some of our friends, as well as
potential adversaries, use to pursue their national interests at the expense
of the United States. For additional information, view Espionage and
Other Compromises of National Security 1975-2008 on the Products page of this site.
9. Because many government and contractor jobs require a security clearance, how can I apply for a clearance?
Individuals cannot obtain a
security clearance on their own. First, you need to be selected or hired for
a position that requires a clearance, and only then can an employer or
sponsor submit your application for a security clearance of the appropriate
level (e.g., Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret) depending on the
requirements of the job. At that time you must fill out a personnel security
questionnaire to start the investigation.