How to Obtain a Red Badge Security Clearance

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When you want to work in areas that are highly classified, such as in or around nuclear reactors, you will need to get a red badge security clearance. Getting one can take more than a year, and sometimes up to two years, and you will need to wait until you are approved for a red badge security clearance in order to get the job.

Fill out the required forms. The required forms for a red badge security clearance will need to be filled out as accurately as possible. The forms may be different for the job application, depending on the company, base, agency and plant where you are applying to work. The Standard Form for the red badge is designated as the SF-86.

The application for a top secret clearance will require that you provide a lot of personal information. In addition, you will be asked to list any foreign travel, the condition of your finances, any problems with the law within the past 10 years and any history of drug and alcohol use or abuse.

Avoid omissions and blanks. Be careful to not leave anything out. Deliberate omissions and blank periods of more than one month on the application may be enough to be rejected for the red badge, according to Hugh Gusterson, author of "Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War."

Get the formal interview. Within a few weeks after you have completed the application, assuming it passes the initial review, you will be interviewed by the person who will also be doing the investigation. These questions will cover most anything and may be personal, including information about your health, finances, computer use and affairs.

Wait for the investigation to be completed. In many cases, it will take under one year for the FBI, or, more likely the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to perform the investigation, says Gusterson. Sometimes, however, it will take closer to two years. During that time, they will talk with your neighbors, friends, relatives, previous employers, past lovers, law enforcement agencies, psychiatrists, and more, to learn all they can about you.

Get re-evaluated every five years. Personnel who have the red badge are re-investigated every five years to ensure they continue to be trustworthy of the secrets they work with every day. Any problems may lead to immediate termination.


If your request for a red badge should be denied and you think that there was a mistake, you may work with a lawyer to get a second chance. Ideally, you will want a lawyer who regularly deals with this type of case, and knows the ins and outs of the government investigation process. In addition, if you suspect that there may be a problem when you provide certain information, it may be a good idea to contact a lawyer in advance for advice on how to fill out the application.