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Time Required to Obtain a Facility Security Clearance (FCL)


     By Secure Defense Consulting Incorporated NISPOM Compliance and Security Consulting Services

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Various factors affect the amount of time it takes a company or organization to obtain a facility security clearance (FCL) . Taking these factors into consideration can enable a company to reduce or minimize the amount of time required for it to obtain a U.S. facility security clearance.
Facility security clearances are granted at the three levels at which national security information is classified: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. The whole process can take from a few weeks to several months. In some cases, interim facility security clearances are granted before the final clearance is granted. The interim clearance may come weeks or months before the final clearance. Though there are other factors that determine whether an organization can obtain a facility security clearance (e.g. the organization must be organized under the laws of one of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico), this article focuses on the factors affecting the amount of time the clearance process takes.

Obtaining a facility security clearance enables an organization to perform on contracts from the U.S. government or its prime contractors that involve accessing classified national security information. It is the responsibility of the organization awarding the classified contract to award it far enough in advance for the contractor to obtain a facility security clearance. Because contractors unfamiliar with the concepts and procedures involved have often failed to obtain a facility security clearance in a satisfactory timeframe, federal agencies and their prime contractors are often reluctant to sponsor contractors for a facility security clearance. Thus, it is prudent for organizations seeking a facility security clearance to understand the factors that affect the speed of the facility security clearance process.

An unavoidable factor is the level of the facility security clearance: Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. The higher the level of classification, the greater the level of security needs to be. Hence, the higher the level of the facility security clearance, the more extensive the federal governmentís scrutiny is.

Personnel Security Clearancesí Role

This enhanced scrutiny mainly focuses on the personnel security clearances (PCLs) of the organizationís key management personnel (KMPs). The key management personnel (officers, directors, managing members, regents, etc.) of the organization generally must obtain personnel security clearances at the level of the facility security clearance being sought. If the key management personnel cannot obtain personnel security clearances at the level of the facility security clearance being sought, then a formal exclusion measure must be used. Such exclusion must prevent the key management person from accessing classified information and from influencing the organizationís performance on the contract in question.

Fortunately, an organization can do a lot to prevent or minimize the problems its key management personnel might have in obtaining personnel security clearances - and the delays those problems could cause. To apply for a personnel security clearance, a person must complete an extensive questionnaire, covering areas such as their arrest record, drug use, personal finances, foreign influences, and more. As it can take considerable time to gather the necessary information, we often suggest that key management personnel gather proof of their U.S. citizenship and complete the questionnaires ahead of time. Concerns and objections the federal government may have with an individualís completed questionnaire can be prevented or mitigated by carefully reviewing the completed questionnaire before submitting it.

The government uses extensive guidelines for assessing a personís suitability for a security clearance. An expert familiar with these guidelines can be helpful in reviewing the completed questionnaires and making recommendations to prevent or mitigate potential issues. By doing so, the personnel security clearance process can often be sped up and security clearance denials can be reduced.

Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence

A main factor the U.S. government considers in the facility security clearance process is whether the organization is under Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence (FOCI). The details of what constitutes Foreign Ownership, Control of Influence are discussed in our separate article on that subject, available at http://www.hgexperts.com/article.asp?id=20649

It is advisable for an organization seeking a facility security clearance to assess whether and to what extent it is under Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence before it begins the facility security clearance process. Again, forethought and preemptive action can be beneficial here. If an organization concludes that is under Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence it can then determine whether it is feasible to obtain a facility security clearance and if so what measure should be used to sufficiently mitigate the foreign influence. Doing this ahead of time can prevent a costly and embarrassing denial of a facility security clearance, as well as save weeks of time and hassle.

Completing Forms and Gathering Documentation

A number of U.S. government forms need to be completed to obtain a facility security clearance. The federal agency or prime contractor awarding the classified contract must complete a DD Form 254 (Contract Security Classification Specification) and provide a copy to the contractor. What the contractor itself can do ahead of time is complete the SF 328 form (Certificate Pertaining to Foreign Interests) and the DD Form 441 (Department of Defense Security Agreement).

The contractor can also gather the necessary documents pertaining to its formation and operation, such as articles of organization and corporate bylaws. The advice of an expert familiar with the documents required of each specific type of organization can be helpful with this.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Secure Defense Consulting Incorporated
Secure Defense Consulting Incorporated provides security consulting services to the U.S. government and companies. We advise on the security of physical assets and classified national security information, specializing in compliance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.
For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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