Quick Guide to Security Clearance From the DoD


Customer Service Representative Answer Client's Questions in a Headset. He Works for a Big Technological Company. Office Has Multi-Ethnic Team of Specialists, Displays Show Useful Information.An investigative arm of the US Department of Defense (DoD) conducts security investigations for all federal employees to determine their reliability, character, conduct, and trustworthiness. Their loyalty to the United States must be consistent with the needs of national security. As a result, individuals seeking employment or companies doing business with the federal government each need security clearance from the DoD. If you’re unsure about the requirements and benefits, read the following overview of DoD security clearances.

What Is a DoD Security Clearance?

Security clearances indicate that the individual holding the clearance has access to classified information on a need-to-know basis, provided they sign a non-disclosure agreement. Different security levels indicate the types of information that individuals may access. Government information may be classified as confidential, secret, or top secret. Each level has protocols outlining how the classified information should be handled.

What Are the DoD Security Clearance Levels?

Private citizens that work for the US Department of Defenses (DoD) or its contractors are required to receive security clearances. Clearances are issued according to the following hierarchy:


Individuals with confidential clearances may access information that may damage national security if disclosed without authorization. The security clearance from the DoD requires investigation every 15 years.


Secret clearances provide access to confidential information and to content that may seriously damage national security if disclosed without authorization. Individuals holding secret clearances must undergo reinvestigation every ten years. 

Top Secret

Top secret clearances provide access to information that impacts national security, counterintelligence, and other highly sensitive information. If the information is disclosed without authorization, then it may cause exceptionally grave damage to national security. Top secret clearances require investigation every five years.

In addition to the standard security clearances, two information classifications require added security:

    • Sensitive compartmented information (SCI). This often includes intelligence methods, processes, and sources. If cleared for SCI access, individuals will be compartmentalized to limit an individual’s scope. SCI access is granted for set periods, although there is no limit to the authorized time.
    • Special access programs (SAPs). These programs reference highly sensitive programs or projects that require additional clearances. They may be granted for the length of a program or only part of a program.

Violations of security protocols are reported regardless of how minor. 

How to Apply for Security Clearance

Employers initiate security clearance investigations. Applicants must complete a security questionnaire that forms the basis of the investigations. It’s essential that applicants include all requested information, as incomplete applications are the most frequent cause of a security denial.

These investigations focus on the following:

  • Loyalty to the United States and its constitution
  • Interactions with foreign countries, residents, and officials
  • Dual citizenship or possession of a foreign passport
  • Criminal convictions or activities
  • Addictive behaviors

The investigators assess individual vulnerabilities that may be used to gain access to classified materials.

SEE ALSO: What Are DoD Instructions and Directives? 


Can you get a DoD security clearance with a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is not an automatic disqualifier. Criminal conduct may be an infraction that results in a fine, a misdemeanor with less than a year of confinement, or a felony with more than a year of incarceration. Investigators will evaluate when the violation happened, the age of the violator, and when the event occurred. Applicants are more likely to be denied clearance for failing to disclose a misdemeanor than for committing one.

Can green card holders get security clearance from the DoD?

Non-US citizens cannot receive security clearance. However, they may receive limited access to information marked confidential or secret if the request meets documented standards.

Can family members affect security clearance from the DoD?

Yes. Family members can impact one’s ability to receive security clearance. Investigators are looking for activities or behaviors that would allow potential compromise. 

Capitalize on the Value of DoD Security Clearance

Organizations that have individuals on staff with DoD security clearances minimize the risk of a security violation. The individuals have undergone the same security investigations as federal employees. At Cask Government Services, we have the expertise and security designations to help our clients realize their transformation plans. Contact us today to discuss how we can help transform your business.