Question . . . How do these people (Cabinet Members & Appointees) get their clearance in the first place? If my father were nominated to be the next head of the FBI, he wouldn’t go through an 18 month investigation and poly.
Answer: Under the current system and law and as reported by the Congressional Research Service, “security clearances are not mandated for the president, vice president, members of congress, Supreme Court justices, or other constitutional officers”. The real question is what is the purpose of security clearance? It is to measure trust in an individual based on information access within a specific job family. Not all FBI Agents have the same clearance level because the “job” and “need to know” determines the level of trust the government needs from that individual. Most agencies determine appropriate level of clearance from confidential to SCI based on the positions requirement for accessing to classified information. The important point is background investigation’s purpose is to determine, in an objective, non-political manner if the person is dependable, trustworthy, and reliable.
To answer your question directly, if your father wanted to be the head of the FBI, he would have to have a clearance.
Outside your question but on a related topic is why not require background investigations for presidential, vice presidential, congressional, Supreme Court justice, or other constitutional officer candidates? Seems their jobs would require the same or higher “need to know” that an Intelligence Analyst at the FBI’s CTD would need. Of course, Congress could amend the Constitution as they did with the 22nd and include the requirement for a background check to run for President, but then it would put pressure for those same members to hold themselves up to the same standards as an FBI Summer Intern. Sure, it would require more taxpayer’s money to be spent, but it might be money well spent. After all whose job should require a background check and higher clearance, the FBI Honor’s Intern or the President of the United States of America?
As former Director Robert Mueller once said, “If security is an inconvenience, tough!”