According to Statista, 1.25 million people in the United States have a top-secret clearance. This designation means they have all gone through an in-depth vetting process the government uses to ensure that those entrusted with sensitive tasks are reliable and trustworthy.
Despite the high numbers, a security clearance can be difficult to get and even harder to reinstate.
Levels of security clearance
The military employs confidential, secret and top-secret clearance levels. Each level represents a varying degree of sensitivity and access to classified information. As one ascends the hierarchy, the scrutiny intensifies. The period between personal investigations also shortens.
The clearance process
The clearance process is more than a formality. It involves a comprehensive investigation into an individual’s background, character and allegiance. Investigators examine every aspect of a person’s life to ensure the candidate poses no threat to national security. Investigators will interview friends, family and past employers to obtain this information.
Individuals with military security clearances bear a significant responsibility to the country. For this reason, it is their responsibility to self-report the following events:
Foreign travel, friendships and activities
Loss or compromise of classified information
Bankruptcy or other financial troubles
Change in marital or relationship status
They must also self-report any psychological counseling or criminal activities.
Ethical conduct is a professional necessity for those holding security clearances. They must be careful to follow all laws. They must also refrain from behavior that someone else could exploit or misinterpret. Failing to do so may result in a loss of clearance.
Losing a security clearance is not merely a setback but can be a career-ending event. Without access to classified information, employers may relegate individuals to non-sensitive roles or terminate their employment.