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  • 13 Feb 2017

    SCIF Rooms: Security Unparalleled

    What is a SCIF? 

    A SCIF Room (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) is a building that is utilized by the United States Government or Military that is used to discuss classified information.  The main focus of these rooms is to prevent the interception of information and data, both physically and electronically.  The most well-known of these being the SCIF in the White House, known as the “Situation Room.” SCIFs must have government accreditation in order to officially have sensitive compartmented information stored, processed, or discussed within it.  In order for the government to officially classify a SCIF as a SCIF, it must comply with a strict set of specifications.  Afterwards, each SCIF room shall be inspected and evaluated by on-site personnel for “threats, vulnerabilities, and assets to determine the most efficient countermeasure required for physical and technical security.”{1}  All of these steps are taken to ensure the risk of someone breaching the SCIF room is minimized to the smallest possible amount.

    As mentioned previously, SCIF rooms have incredibly strict specifications that pertain to not only its construction but also the procedures of the personnel around the secure room.  For these specifications, SCIFs are split into four different categories: Temporary SCIF buildings (also includes airborne and shipboard SCIFs), fixed facility SCIF buildings, SCIFs outside the United States under Chief of Mission Authority, and SCIFs outside the US not under Chief of Mission Authority.  Generally, these specifications are based on the premise of ensuring the SCIF is protected from every kind of potential attack.  All of these specifications are outlined in the 161-page document, “Technical Specification for Construction and Management of Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities” from the National Counterintelligence Executive. 

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    A few of these specifications apply to everyday things that we associate with even regular office spaces.  For instance, doors, every SCIF door is required to have only one door leading to the exterior of the room.  This entrance and exit to the SCIF room will have constant visitor control.  They even specify that any hinge pins on the outside of the SCIF door “shall be modified to prevent removal of the door,” and “shall be alarmed.”

    But of course, the doors of the SCIF are absolutely not the only weakness undercover spies would look for when trying to steal the nation’s secrets.  SCIF buildings also have very specific criteria to their windows. The number one rule is no windows, if possible… If you must have windows, the “windows shall be non-opening,”  “protected by security alarms,” and “provide visual and acoustic protection.” So, if you were hoping to sneak through an open window, you are out of luck this time. 

    And that’s just for fixed facility SCIF construction


    Alarms and Perimeter Security

    As previously mentioned, the SCIF room itself has strict construction specifications, but that is only part of what makes a SCIF so secure.  For facilities that are located outside of the United States, within a potentially more dangerous environment, the facilities “shall be alarmed,” shall have and access control system in place, an “initial alarm response time” of five minutes, and a “duress alarm is recommended.”  Even if the room is being utilized internationally, “up to 35% of building materials from non-specific general construction materials” may be selected by “cleared US citizens.”  Even for the construction of this type of SCIF building, guards are required to be present for the construction, if it takes place outside of the United States.  

    Temporary and Special Use SCIFs

    SCIF Room WallFinally, temporary, airborne, and shipboard SCIF rooms have their own entirely different set of specifications to follow.  These units are typically placed in areas that are far more unstable and are typically under “field or combat conditions.”  In such a scenario, the storage of “Sensitive Conditional Information” requires the constant presence of “SCI-indoctrinated personnel” and must be strictly limited to the information required for operational needs.  These more stingy requirements are due to the fact that these conditions often much less controlled than a fixed facility SCIF building and therefore, far less secure.  For temporary SCIFs in operation, “the perimeter of its immediate area shall be observed and protected by US guards…with emergency communication devices and, if necessary, with weapons.”

    Other Security Measures

    For all SCIF rooms, when not in operation, an intrusion detection system (IDS) must be in use in order to monitor the outside of the facility.  The IDS will go into “secure mode” when the last personnel has left the building. When the IDS is in secure mode, “any unauthorized entry into the SCIF shall cause an alarm to be immediately transmitted to the monitoring station. All alarm activations must be considered an unauthorized entry into the SCIF building until determined otherwise.  
    Ultimately, a SCIF room is the be-all and end-all of high-end anti-tampering rooms.  Like the Situation Room in the White House, these rooms are capable of securely handling even the most sensitive information during the most critical moments in history.  Panel Built, Inc. has been designed modular wall paneling specifically for SCIF room applications.  These heavy duty panels more than meet all SCIF requirements. 


      • All ICD 705 for STC 45 and STC 50 requirements met
      • Tempest Rooms Available
      • Solid Construction Withstands Military Environments
      • Easy Installation with Minimal Facility Disruptions


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