Personnel Security Appeals Board Process for Security Clearance Holders and Applicants

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

Civilian and military employees often ask us about the end stage of the security clearance process. Most cases, in our experience, do not reach this point. Many security clearance cases are mitigated at lower levels of the appeals process. However, some cases do reach a federal agency’s Personnel Security Appeals Board (known as a PSAB) which considers all of the information in a case and renders a final decision on a security clearance.

What is a PSAB?

Usually, a PSAB is a panel of reviewers (3-5) that meet once a month (or other regular interval) to review final appeals from security clearance holders or applicants. At this stage, once a decision is reached, the PSAB will generally issue a short decision. I thought that it might be of interest for those federal and military employees going through the security clearance process to see a redacted sample of the type of decision that is typically rendered. There is little difference, in length, between favorable and unfavorable decisions, which are then issued by the head of the PSAB.

What Does a PSAB Do?

The purpose of a PSAB is to render a final decision on appeals of revocations or denials of security clearance eligibility/Sensitive Compartmented Access (SCI) access eligibility. The PSAB, depending on the agency, consists of 3-5 members (who are usually rotated on a monthly basis from a pool of available members).

A PSAB will review all of the information and documentation, including the applicant’s appeal documents, an administrative judge’s recommendation (if any) and the entire case file. After such a review, the PSAB will make a final determination based on the whole person concept. If the PSAB decides to overturn a denial the security clearance will be granted or reinstated. It is also possible that a PSAB may grant a conditional reinstatement requiring certain conditions on the clearance holder (i.e. be subject to additional monitoring) in order for them to retain their security clearance. If the PSAB denies the appeal, the decision will bar the clearance holder or applicant from applying again for a 1-year period.

A sample PSAB decision is shown below:

Sample PSAB Decision


If you need assistance with a security clearance issue or representation before a PSAB, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at and Twitter.

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