Frequently Asked Questions

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 security systems.

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.