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This is NOT an official Army-sanctioned webpage. This is just an NCO trying to help other Soldiers out. Whatever my opinions are on here are not to be considered the opinions of the Army, or even considered fact. All information presented should be double-checked with your CLPM and Retention NCO/Recruiter, or double-checked in the Army Regulation or message provided. Despite my best efforts and collaboration with other NCOs, I am sometimes wrong and you shouldn't base your enlistment/re-enlistment solely on what I have to say, but rather use this information as a base for your research.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How do I become a linguist? (Part 2 - Qualifying for a security clearance)

Your next concern after passing the DLAB is, can you get a security clearance? Many people can easily qualify for a security clearance, while some may never get one.  Almost every job I can think of that is language-dependent (meaning you MUST be language qualified to hold that Military Occupational Specialty) or language-capable (meaning you CAN be language qualified) requires a security clearance of at least SECRET.

The three main security clearances you will deal with in the Army are:

TOP SECRET / SCI (Sensitive Comparmented Information)

Most intelligence-related jobs require a TS/SCI clearance.  TS clearances do exist on their own, but they are nearly worthless without access to SCI.  SCI simply means that just because you have a TS clearance doesn't mean that you have access to all of the nation's top secret information.  The intelligence community places select pieces of intelligence into "compartments" so that you only ever have access to what you need to know.

To get a TS/SCI clearance you will need to pass a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI).  If you are an initial entry Soldier, your recruiter will help you with this.  If you are on active duty, you will need to get with your nearest S2 (intelligence) shop and have them set you up to fill out the information on e-QIP (often pronounced "e-quip").  e-QIP replaced the old SF86 and hard copy system of the past.

An SSBI checks your personal history either 10 years prior or to the age of 18, whichever is less.  So if you are 22 years old, your SSBI would check up to 4 years into your past.  Some of the things that the investigators will check are:
  • citizenship
  • criminal record (to include speeding tickets, unpaid fines, things that have been supposedly expunged, suspended driver's licenses, DUIs, etc)
  • education
  • past employment
  • references
  • financial situation (looking for bankruptcies, defaults, late payments, high debt to income ratio, etc)
  • public records
  • drug use
  • and much much more!
The process can take as little as a few months or as long as a few years, depending on how busy the Central Clearance Facility (CCF) is investigating other people, and how accurately you fill out your security questionnaire.  

The primary mistakes people make when filling out their security questionnaire are:
  • lying about drug use or other "criminal" behavior
  • rushing to complete the form and leaving fields blank
  • using the same people over and over again for references
 The worst thing you could possibly due to jeopardize the issuance of your security clearance is lie.  The investigators would rather see that you told the truth about smoking marijuana, for example, rather than lie about it.  If you lie, there is a high probability that if they catch you in the lie that you will be denied a security clearance.

The reason for that is this: national intelligence is often compromised by people who have either made poor financial decisions or who can easily be blackmailed into giving up information.  Those who are deeply in debt and cannot pay their bills are more likely to accept a bribe from a foreign intelligence service (FIS) to settle their debt in exchange for national security information.  People that lie on their clearance about drug use, for example, can also be blackmailed by FIS agents.  They can approach you and tell you that they will tell the government about your drug use if you do not give them intelligence information.

However, if you are truthful on your clearance application and someone approaches you and says "I know you did drugs and I'm going to tell the government if you don't give me intelligence" you can coolly respond - "I already told them myself.  Piss off." :)

I have a friend that has investigated security clearances in the past, and according to him the three biggest reasons for denial of a security clearance are:
  • lying on the application (usually about drug use)
  • poor financial situation (especially bankruptcy)
  • failure to disclose foreign contacts (such as a Russian friend that you lived with in college that isn't a U.S. citizen, or a Syrian female that you have become intimate with after you met in an online chat room)
A good rule of thumb for security clearances is - be thorough, honest, and too much information is better than not enough.  Try to never use the same person twice.  So when it asks you "list a person that knew you while you worked here" try to make sure that isn't the SAME person you list under the section "list a person that knew you while you lived at this address".

And that's pretty much it for the basics of security clearances.  Getting too far into security clearances is a little bit outside of the scope of this blog. Feel free to visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

If you've already read Part 1 (taking the DLAB) and are ready to move on to Part 3 (choosing the right MOS), click here.


  1. I was hoping you could post Part says to 'click here' but there is no link for part 3. I appreciate your articles a lot, as I just ran across them today in search of this exact information. Thank you SO much for taking the time.

  2. Actually if you see the whole blog I did post it, but you are correct in that I forgot to update that link. It's updated now, but check out the rest of the blog as it is already posted some time ago.

  3. "failure to disclose foreign contacts (such as a Russian friend that you lived with in college that isn't a U.S. citizen, or a Syrian female that you have become intimate with after you met in an online chat room)"

    So I grew up in the internet age and have chatted with several people from around world. However, I am not "close" to them, meaning we have never exchanged addresses or personal information, they are literally just internet friends. Is this important information to disclose or it's not that serious? I am friends with a few of these people on facebook as well. How much do they look into social media?


    1. I don't claim to be an expert on security clearances so bear in mind I'm not giving you official policy just what I've seen.

      I wouldn't worry about disclosing them. If you can't provide an email address, physical address, and phone number for someone you know only through Facebook or the like I wouldn't worry.

      There are exceptions of course like having intimate conversations with people daily and you just don't happen to know their contact info.

      In future communications especially if you get a clearance I would consider asking myself: why am I friends with these people? Is it just some random person I friended and talk to once a year? If so I'd delete them. Also I'd shy away from having contact with citizens of certain countries such as Iran, north Korea, China, etc. I'm not overly paranoid but many intelligence threats start on social media.

    2. Think about it this way as well:

      If an investigator found the extent of your "true" relationship would they be suspicious? If it was like someone you friended after a brief discussion on politics and never really communicated again with would that look bad? Definitely not although consider my previous statements about friending random people.

      However if that investigator found out somehow that you talked to that person several times a day or week they might conclude you were hiding something who knows.

  4. I am also concerned about a previous job I have held. I did some work as a webcam model and it is classified as adult entertainment. Do you think that this will hinder my ability to obtain a TS/SGI clearance? I never did anything illegal, but I did work for a company that paid me from Ireland, which is a foreign country. I want to be completely honest in this process and I did receive payment for my work which generated W2s.

  5. Realizing of course that my opinion is not the end all be all I wouldn't be concerned. If your work was legal and you received a W2 I really don't see an investigator holding that against you. You'll have to list a supervisor, business address, etc.

    Better to list it than have one of your contacts or contacts' contacts saying "so and so worked at such and such" place and there's no record of it.

    I really have never heard of someone being disqualified for a job they held previously that was legal. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened but I've never heard of it.