Background Investigations and Reinvestigations
Background investigations are used by federal agencies (e.g., DOE) as the basis for security clearance determinations, as required by Executive Orders and other rules and regulations. The process begins with a Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86), completed via the electronic Questionnaire for Investigation Processing (e-QIP), an online application. Information required on this questionnaire includes detailed information about you and your background. In general, the investigation consists of a variety of record checks and, depending on the clearance level requested, may involve a personal interview with you and interviews with persons who know you well (e.g., family, friends, and references) or otherwise know of you (e.g., neighbors, co-workers, associates). If you are required to apply for a clearance, you will be informed by your manager. The Clearance Office will then contact you and provide instructions.
Background Reinvestigations are required and are intended to ensure that individuals with security clearances are routinely re-evaluated to determine their continued need and eligibility to possess their clearances. Reinvestigations for “L” and “Q” access authorizations occur on 10- and 5-year cycles, respectively. When you are due for a clearance reinvestigation, you will be contacted by the Clearance Office and provided instructions.
Background Investigator Identity and Methods of Contact
The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) under the U.S. Department of Defense is responsible for conducting most background investigations for the federal government.
In addition to Special Agents, DCSA uses a variety of contractors (e.g., Perspecta, CACI, Securitas) to support its mission. These contractors may also use subcontractors. All DCSA-affiliated investigators carry credentials and will identify themselves as associated with DCSA.
To facilitate their function, investigators are authorized to call, email, and text persons who are under investigation. These contacts are routinely initiated to update information and/or to schedule an interview (e.g., Perspecta online scheduling tool). Investigators are also authorized to conduct telephonic interviews in accordance with DCSA policy.
Those who are contacted by an investigator via phone, email, or text should not disregard this as phishing or marketing attempts.
Prompt response to investigators’ messages is essential, to aid in the timely completion of background investigations. Prompt attention also indicates the recipient’s compliance with DOE requirements, which specify that affected individuals must cooperate with the security clearance process.
As deemed necessary, one may verify the validity of a contact or identity of a DCSA investigator by contacting the DCSA Verification/Complaint Hotline at 1-888-795-5673 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Fridays, or via email to RMFSIMSST@nbib.gov.
Points to Remember
- The electronic Questionnaire for Investigation Processing (e-QIP) requests both personal contact information (e.g., email/cell phone) and work contact information.
- Individuals undergoing investigation or reinvestigation should be aware that investigators may contact them using any of the methods mentioned above.
- To facilitate the clearance process, individuals should respond promptly to investigator requests.
Checking the Status of a Clearance Request Submitted to DOE
Individuals whose clearance request has been submitted to DOE may access the DOE Applicant Tracking System (ATS) an online application provided by DOE to view when:
- A background investigation is scheduled
- A completed background investigation has been received by DOE
- A clearance determination has been made by DOE
For instructions on creating a username and password to access the ATS, refer to the ATS Quick Reference Guide.
Requesting a Copy of Your Background Investigation/e-QIP
To request a copy of your background investigation or investigative form completed in e-QIP, contact the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) for instructions.
Providing Acceptable Evidence of U.S. Citizenship for a DOE Clearance Request
Only U.S. citizens are eligible for a DOE security clearance. In accordance with DOE requirements, acceptable evidence of U.S. citizenship must be verified and consists of the following:
- For an individual born in the U.S., one of the following is required:
- Original or certified U.S. birth certificate.
- Current or expired U.S. passport.
- For an individual claiming citizenship by naturalization, a Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570) showing the individual’s name is required.
- For an individual claiming citizenship acquired by birth abroad to a U.S. citizen, one of the following (showing the individual’s name) is required:
- Certificate of Citizenship Form N-560 or N-561.
- Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the U.S. of America (State Department Form FS 240).
- Certificate of Birth (Form FS 545 or DS 1350).
- Current or expired U.S. passport.
- Record of Military Processing – Armed Forces of the U.S. (DD Form 1966), provided it reflects that the individual is a U.S. citizen.
Impact to a Security Clearance Due to an Absence from Work of 90 Calendar Days or More
DOE policy specifies that when an individual’s circumstances temporarily eliminate the need for access to classified matter (including continuous unescorted access to a Limited Area) for 90 calendar days or more, the individual’s security clearance must be administratively terminated. It is important to note that this type of clearance termination is not an adverse action and does not prevent or hinder a subsequent request to reinstate the clearance.
DOE will consider waiving its requirement to administratively terminate a clearance if the details of a case indicate that such a waiver would be in DOE’s interest. Consequently, Sandia management has the option to initiate, at their sole discretion, a request to waive the DOE requirement and thereby allow an active clearance to be temporarily maintained for a Member of the Workforce who will be absent from work for 90 calendar days or more.
If the waiver request is granted by DOE, the clearance may remain active only up to a maximum of 180 calendar days from the absence start date. If the absence from work continues beyond 180 calendar days, the clearance will be administratively terminated. Thereafter, standard clearance reinstatement requirements apply (i.e., a clearance request must be initiated via the Sandia Total Access Request Tool [START]).
A waiver request must be initiated by Sandia management through the Clearance Office prior to the absence reaching 90 calendar days. If the circumstances involve an actual LOA, the LOA must be formally authorized in accordance with applicable HR policies. All notifications associated with a waiver request are made to the responsible Sandia manager.
Note that an absence of less than 90 calendar days is not of concern. However, if circumstances indicate in advance that the absence will reach or exceed 90 calendar days and a waiver request is deemed necessary, the request must be initiated as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for processing. Otherwise, if no waiver request is made within the required timeframes, the clearance will be administratively terminated on the 90th day of the individual’s absence and the responsible Sandia manager will be so informed. Thereafter, standard clearance reinstatement requirements apply (i.e., a clearance request must be initiated via the Sandia Total Access Request Tool [START]). For questions, contact Security Connection at (505) 845-1321 or email@example.com.
Administrative Termination and Request Withdrawal
DOE clearance administrative terminations are associated with granted clearances. DOE clearance withdrawals are associated with pending clearance requests. Generally, these actions are not adverse in nature and do not prevent or hinder a subsequent request to reinstate a previously held clearance or reapply for a new one. In addition, DOE clearance administrative terminations and withdrawals are actions exclusive to the DOE clearance process and have no relationship to employment or contract-related matters.
An administrative termination of a clearance may occur when:
- Clearance is no longer required (e.g., no longer employed or changed employers).
- Cleared person is absent from work (e.g., on a leave of absence or extended leave) and will not require access to classified matter or Special Nuclear Material (SNM) for 90 consecutive calendar days or more. Also see “Impact to a Security Clearance Due to an Absence from Work of 90 Calendar Days or More” above.
- Access to classified matter or SNM is no longer required.
Because an individual’s responsibility to protect classified and sensitive information continues long after termination of their clearance, DOE requires formerly cleared Members of the Workforce to review and sign DOE F 5631.29, Security Termination Statement. To simplify the administrative termination process and ensure consistency, the required Termination Briefing and associated Security Termination Statement—previously administered/delivered separately—are combined into one form: DOE F 5631.29, Security Termination Statement and Security Termination Briefing (SEC225) Addendum. This form is commonly prepared and completed in the presence of the individual’s manager, who also signs the form as the “Debriefing Official.” A Human Resource Business Partner or Sandia Designated Representative may also prepare the form and sign as the “Debriefing Official.”
Important points to keep in mind:
- DOE F 5631.29 must be returned to the appropriate Clearance Office within 2 working days of the clearance termination action.
- The completed form may be submitted via fax, encrypted email, or hand carry.
- Do not use interoffice mail.
- The affected individual should retain the Security Termination Briefing (SEC225) Addendum portion for his/her records.
- In all cases, effort must be made to directly contact the affected individual to complete the briefing.
- If the affected individual is not available to review and sign DOE F 5631.29 in a timely manner, the form must still be completed (under signature of a Debriefing Official) and submitted to the appropriate Clearance Office within 2 working days of the clearance termination action. At the individual’s signature block, the annotation “unavailable for signature” must be indicated.
- Completion of the DOE F 5631.29 only terminates the security clearance; it does not affect employment or contract status.
If an clearance request in progress is no longer necessary, prompt notification must be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (SNL/CA only). The notification must include the individual’s name, a statement of intent to withdraw the clearance request, and whether an uncleared authorization (and badge as applicable) for the individual remains necessary.
DOE Clearances and Dual Citizenship
DOE allows for a dual citizen to apply for a security clearance provided one of the citizenships is with the United States. The clearance application must also include a signed certification by the Sandia Laboratories Director that (1) states the applicant’s position requires the level of access requested, and (2) confirms the Director is aware the individual is a dual citizen. The Director’s decision to provide the certification (or not) is based, in part, on consultation with SNL Counterintelligence.
- Dual citizenship may impact an individual’s eligibility for other access authorization types such as SAP, SIGMA, SCI, etc. As necessary, contact each responsible program office for details.
- Any change in citizenship by a Member of the Workforce must be reported in accordance with DOE and SNL reporting requirements.