How Often Are Security Clearances Reviewed?

by | General | 1 comment

Ever wondered how often security clearances get reviewed? Whether you’re in the military, a government contractor, or part of a sensitive industry, understanding the review cycle can impact your career and responsibilities.

Security clearances aren’t just a one-time check; they require periodic reevaluation to ensure ongoing trustworthiness. Knowing the frequency and what triggers a review can help you stay prepared and maintain your clearance status. Dive in to discover the ins and outs of security clearance reviews and what you need to know to stay compliant.

Overview of Security Clearances

What Is a Security Clearance?

A security clearance is an official authorization that grants access to classified information. It verifies that individuals can be trusted with sensitive data, requiring thorough background checks. Departments like the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies issue these clearances. The process involves reviewing personal history, financial records, and foreign contacts to ensure loyalty and reliability.

Types of Security Clearances

There are three main types of security clearances:

  1. Confidential: Confidential clearances grant access to information that could cause damage to national security if disclosed. They are the lowest level of security clearance and are often granted to entry-level personnel.
  2. Secret: Secret clearances provide access to information that could cause serious damage to national security. Military personnel and government employees with mid-level responsibilities typically need this level.
  3. Top Secret: Top Secret clearances grant access to information that could cause exceptionally grave damage if exposed. High-level government officials, intelligence operatives, and contractors working on sensitive projects require this clearance.

Different agencies may have additional specificities, but these comprise the core categories. Regular reviews and continuous evaluations help maintain the necessary security standards across all types.

The Security Clearance Review Process

Initial Investigation

When obtaining a security clearance, you complete an initial investigation. Agencies like the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy conduct these investigations. Your background, financial history, personal relationships, and criminal records are scrutinized. For Confidential and Secret clearances, the investigation focuses on the last 7 years. For Top Secret clearances, it spans your entire life.

Continuous Evaluation

Continuous evaluation keeps your security clearance status current between periodic reinvestigations. Automated systems review your financial records, criminal activity, and foreign travel history. These systems work year-round. If suspicious activity is detected, a human investigator evaluates the situation. Continuous evaluation helps maintain security integrity without waiting for periodic reviews.

Frequency of Reviews

Standard Review Intervals

Security clearances undergo periodic reviews based on their classification level to ensure continued eligibility. Confidential clearances are reviewed every 15 years. Secret clearances have a review interval of 10 years. Top Secret clearances require reviews every 5 years. These intervals adhere to guidelines set by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Triggers for Additional Reviews

Certain conditions prompt additional reviews outside the standard intervals. Significant changes in personal circumstances, like financial problems or criminal charges, often lead to unscheduled evaluations. Reports of security breaches or suspicious activities also initiate further investigations. Furthermore, any substantial concerns flagged by the Continuous Evaluation System can trigger immediate reviews.

Impact of Security Clearance Delays

Security Concerns

Delays in security clearance processing can pose significant security risks. Unapproved individuals might access sensitive information due to prolonged clearance review times, increasing the likelihood of data breaches or espionage. For instance, an unreviewed clearance can allow an individual to retain access despite new security concerns. It’s crucial to address these delays to maintain national security and protect classified data.

Career Implications

Security clearance delays can substantially impact your career progression. Job offers, promotions, or project assignments often hinge on clearance status. Prolonged delays can cause you to miss key opportunities, leading to career stagnation. Sectors like defense, intelligence, and federal contracting are particularly affected. Addressing delays ensures efficient workforce transformation and individual career advancement.


Understanding the frequency of security clearance reviews is essential for maintaining national security and protecting sensitive information. Regular reevaluations help ensure that individuals granted access to classified data remain trustworthy and reliable. By adhering to ODNI guidelines and addressing delays in the clearance process, you can safeguard classified information and support your career progression in critical sectors. Stay informed and proactive in managing your security clearance to contribute effectively to your organization’s security objectives.


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