Companies that wish to do business with the federal government and handle national security information must obtain a confidential, secret, or top secret Facility Security Clearance – or FCL. The clearance can be awarded by the government after an investigation determines that the company needs access to classified material and meets certain requirements.
In most cases, a company does not need to have an FCL to bid on or win a government contract. In fact, a company cannot apply for an FCL by itself. The clearance process typically begins once the company obtains the contract, and it is usually sponsored by the cleared contractor or federal agency awarding it. In some cases, an interim clearance, with several limitations, may be awarded before the final.
There is no cost associated for the Facility Clearance for the contractor. Once a company is awarded an FCL, a Facility Security Officer (FSO) must be designated. This employee is responsible for ensuring that the company adheres to federal requirements regarding classified information – like those delineated in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM).
The Sponsor Initiates the FCL request process by forwarding a sponsorship letter to the Facility Clearance Branch (FCB), asking the FCB to issue a facility security clearance request for the prospective contractor’s facility. The FCB reviews the FCL request and determines whether it is valid. Once the FCB has validated the facility security clearance request, the request is forwarded to the appropriate Defense Security Service (DSS), industrial Security Field Office. The contractor facility is then assigned a DSS Industrial Security Representative or IS Rep, who gathers the information needed to evaluate the prospective contractor facility. The IS Rep ensures that all the requisite documents and forms are completely executed and all key management personnel have been determined eligible for access to classified information, and then provides this information to the FCB. The Security Specialist at the FCB, in conjunction with the DSS IS REP, then uses the information to evaluate the prospective contract and make an eligibility determination regarding whether or not to grant and FCL. Completion timelines varies on each request. Further FCL instructions can be found using this link.