Difference Between SSBI And SCI (With Table)

The majority of people have a distorted understanding of how intelligence and counter-intelligence function. We frequently base our understanding of them on how they are portrayed in popular media. The truth, however, is significantly more tiresome than one might imagine. Qualification is only one stage; real authorization is the next. A few names are bandied about in this process, such as Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), however, they are essentially different facets.


The difference between SSBI and SCI is that SSBI is a type of security clearance inquiry required for highly sensitive information, whereas SSBI is a type of security clearance inquiry required for highly sensitive information meanwhile SCI is a category of highly classified information whose propagation is restricted due to the serious and prospective security risks involved. 

SSBI is used to assess if an applicant will be granted a security clearance. This investigation is incredibly thorough. Field interviews are normal routine and include relatives, colleagues, bosses, acquaintances, former instructors or professors from educational institutions attended by the subject, neighbors, and anybody else who may be judged to have essential information about the individual.

SCI is not an inquiry, but rather classified material. It is not a categorization, but rather just a kind or form of classified information predicated on crucial and sensitive information or procedures. It is sometimes stated as “beyond Top Secret” information or data, albeit this is an exaggeration. It is subdivided into many “control systems.”

Comparison Table Between SSBI And SCI

Parameters of ComparisonSSBISCI
Full formSingle Scope Background InvestigationSensitive Compartmented Information
MeaningSSBI is a type of security clearance inquiry necessary for highly sensitive information.SCI is a sort of classified intelligence whose dissemination is restricted owing to the serious and prospective security risks involved.
Reason of conductionUndertaken to determine whether or not a person will be awarded a security clearanceNot carried out since it is classified intelligence with limited access.
AccessA manager or a member of the command-and-control staffTo be considered eligible for access, a person must pass an SSBI.
Details includedEmployment, schooling, organization allegiances, any community agency where the participant has resided, worked, or traveledSpecial intelligence, TK, HCS, and KDK

What is SSBI?

Military defense assessments (as well as citizen security clearances) need a painstaking process of questioning, investigating, and thorough investigation. This procedure is required in order to get Restricted, Classified information, or Top-Secret clearance.

SCI requires Single Scope Background Investigations. This investigation does not grant the candidate an extra security clearance; rather, it is implemented to enhance Top Secret clearances and offers access to SCI following completion of the inquiry.

Hardly those who have a special urge to access it are entitled to be examined and approved. Whenever this access is granted, the categorization may be referred to as Top Secret/SCI, however, there is no “fourth clearance” in this case–merely an extra designation allowing access to SCI. 

Those who necessitate an SSBI are frequently told of the necessity by their superiors; this may be due to a job transfer or dramatic shift of station relocation to a special project that necessitates the access. It might also be related to military promotions, changes in staffing or mission needs, or a variety of other factors.

Background checks are performed on the following details: job, education, group connections, and any local agency where the person has lived, worked, traveled, or attended school.

Past background inquiries on the participant may also be examined to verify the material acquired or revealed in the new SSBI. Their investigation covers the following topics: minimal investigating scope, investigation extension, national agency verification, subject interrogation, birth certificate, residency, education, and employment confirmation.

What is SCI?

SCI is a subdivision of national intelligence that is classified. SCI is a sort of confidential information in the United States that is generated via critical intel agencies, procedures, or progressive development. All SCI must always be administered through the Director of National Intelligence’s official access controls.

Although a few channels refer to SCI process control as special access programs (SAPs), the intelligence community regards SCI and SAPs as separate types of restricted access programs. SCI does not exist as a categorization.

Although SCI authorization is referred to as “above Top Secret,” data of any security level may reside within an SCI control system. When “de-compartmented,” this material is handled exactly the same as collateral (Highly classified/Confidential/) information of the same level of classification.

An SSBI or PR determines eligibility for SCI access. Because the same inquiry is used to give Top Secret clearances, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably as TS/SCI. Eligibility does not allow access to any certain SCI content; it is only a qualification. As part of their duties, those with security clearances may be “read into” SCI.

A polygraph examination or other permitted investigating or adjudicatory procedure may be used in this process. When it is judged that an individual ought to have access to an SCI compartment, people accept a nondisclosure agreement, are “read in” or indoctrinated, as well as fact that they will have permission to log in to a local access register or a computerized database.

Main Differences Between SSBI And SCI

  1. The full form of SSBI is single scope background investigation while SCI stands for sensitive compartmented information.
  2. SSBI is a form of security approval investigation required for highly classified, SCI Q access, and TOP SECRET-level Limited Access Programs in the United States, whereas SCI is a form of confidential information in the United States regarding or inferred from delicate intelligence operatives, techniques, or analytical processes.
  3. SSBI is conducted to assess if a security clearance will be granted to a someone, whereas SCI is not conducted since it is a sort of classified intelligence with limited access owing to the serious and probable security risks involved.
  4. In SSBI, a supervisor or command support staff can commence a background investigation or secret clearance process, whereas a person must clear an SSBI to even be deemed eligible for access to a SCI. Even so, there is no certainty that the person will be granted access to sensitive content.
  5. SSBI contains background investigations for employment, schooling, organisation allegiances, any community agency where the participant has resided, worked, travelled, or gone to school, subject interview, birth certificate, citizenship, education, and employment corroboration, whereas SCI is divided into various “control systems” such as special intelligence, TK, HCS, and KDK, among many others.


The words SSBI and SCI are frequently used interchangeably, which can result in misunderstandings among security clearance holders regarding what the terms signify and whether they relate to the same thing.

Broadly said, SSBI is a type of inquiry, while SCI is a sort of information. The two names are intimately associated, but they are not interchangeable and do not indicate the same thing.

An SSBI is restricted for workers (armed services, citizens, and suppliers) who require a Top-Secret clearance as well as access to classified heavily encrypted information, whereas SCI is an access determination based on the need to access classified intel. Although it is frequently associated with the intelligence sector, SCI programs exist in many government agencies.


  1. https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=234669
  2. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
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