Already Have a Clearance? Get Ready for Continuous Vetting

October 31, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

For federal workers and contractors with security clearances, periodic reinvestigations were something that they had to endure every 5,10, or 15 years, depending on the type of clearance they held. While reinvestigation can generate a fair amount of stress and anxiety, workers could at least rest knowing that they would not need to go through it again for at least another five years. However, the security clearance landscape has gone through a major shift, and federal workers need to be prepared for what is coming. If you have questions about these changes and how they could impact your security clearance, a security clearance attorney can walk you through what you can expect. 

Will I Still Have to Undergo a Periodic Investigation? 

This is a common question that has no clear answer at the moment. The intent is to eventually replace periodic reinvestigations with the continuous vetting process. Many security clearance holders may have already had their reinvestigations deferred in an attempt to deal with the massive reinvestigation backlog, meaning that they go through a continuous vetting process. Other federal employees may still have to go through the reinvestigation process. DoD employees were the first to be brought into the continuous vetting process, but the OPM has recently directed all federal agencies to start continuous vetting procedures for lower-clearance employees at the beginning of the next federal fiscal year, October 2024. 

Employees who may be approaching the expiration of their clearance should keep track of the precise date of their most recent reinvestigation. More importantly, they need to understand that all the potential issues that would be problematic in the context of a reinvestigation will also be problematic under the continuous vetting process. Employees who are concerned about specific issues should contact a federal security clearance attorney to discuss what they can do to address those issues. 

How is Continuous Vetting Different from Periodic Reinvestigation?

As the name implies, continuous vetting is an ongoing process as opposed to an investigation that happens at a distinct period of time. The intention behind the process is to provide real-time monitoring of a clearance holder’s security risk with the purpose of addressing potential issues as they arise and resolving them so that the clearance holder can retain their clearance. In order to accomplish this, there are seven categories that are continuously monitored via automated data checks: 

  1. Criminal history
  2. Violent extremism
  3. Terrorism and other unlawfully subversive activities
  4. Financial history 
  5. Foreign activities and associations
  6. Employment conduct
  7. Interpersonal activity

Data checks will be performed on a time-based and an event-based frequency. As a result, things like delinquent debts, investigations by other federal agencies, or foreign travel could prompt an alert. 

What Happens if an Alert is Triggered? 

If an alert is triggered, it will be referred to an analyst to validate the alert. Validation consists of verifying the identity of the worker, verifying that the alert was proper, and determining whether the information triggering the alert had been previously addressed in the security clearance process.  

If the alert is validated, you will be notified by your security official or a DCSA (Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency) background investigator. You will be requested to provide information concerning the issue that prompted the alert. The information you will be required to provide and the format will be dictated by the severity of the alert, your position, and your geographic location. For example, you may need to meet with your security official or an investigator in person or may simply need to provide information via email. 

Don’t Wait for an Alert

Life happens, regardless of your security clearance. If you find yourself charged with a crime or facing some other issue that could jeopardize your clearance, the best thing to do is voluntarily and proactively disclose it to your security official. Self-reporting demonstrates that you respect the trust that the government has placed in you and are willing to take responsibility for any indiscretions or other issues. In turn, this will help you get the issue resolved more quickly from a clearance standpoint, whereas not reporting is likely to invite greater scrutiny.  

That said, we understand that this can be an incredibly difficult step to take. If you are worried about your clearance, a security clearance attorney can provide you with confidential advice and help you find a way forward. 

Talk to a Security Clearance Attorney at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

If you have questions about your clearance or issues that may be problematic, we can get you the answers you need. Contact us online or call us today at 410-514-6099 to schedule an appointment to discuss how our team can help you in your career.