As a United States Navy Submarine Communications Technician, I spent the vast majority of my 26-year career working in and around secure facilities handling and processing classified information. When I retired, I never imagined that I would ever hear the term “SCIF” again, much less be involved in the design and construction of these specialized units.
So, just what is a SCIF?
“SCIF” is a government acronym for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. That is surely a mouthful. In simpler language, a SCIF is an area that has been specifically designed and constructed in accordance with Intelligence Community Directives to provide extraordinary security safeguards for the storage, processing, and discussion of Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). So, what is Sensitive Compartmented Information? Many mistakenly believe it to be a classification level much like “Confidential,” “Secret,” or “Top Secret.” According to the Department of Defense, the classification level:
CONFIDENTIAL is applied to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which could be reasonably expected to cause damage to the national security.
SECRET is applied to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
TOP SECRET is applied to information or material the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
Actually, the term Sensitive Compartmented Information refers not so much to the classification level itself, but rather to the methods of handling certain types of classified information concerning or derived from intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes that relate to specific national-security topics or programs, the sensitive nature of which requires special handling. The location where the SCI is handled and processed is known as a SCIF. When properly constructed and managed, a SCIF will afford the proper “protection of Sensitive Compartmented Information against compromising emanations, inadvertent observation and disclosure by unauthorized persons, and the detection of unauthorized entry.” (1)
And you thought it was a little boat. Pretty sure that is a skiff…
(1)Technical Specifications for Construction and Management of Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities / April 23, 2012.