How to Lose Your Security Clearance

Security Clearance Security Clearance Job Fair

A security clearance plays an important role in your job search efforts. While having one doesn’t guarantee you a job, it can increase your chances for landing one across multiple industries.

Your security clearance tells an employer who lacks first-hand knowledge that you can be trusted, on or off the job. It suggests that you possess proven degrees of loyalty, integrity and honesty. Now more than ever, those are priceless characteristics that any employer would love to hire, even ones whose jobs don’t require the credential in the first place.

Let’s not overlook the big bucks of the situation, either.

Having a clearance, active or even lapsed, can mean a higher offered salary for you because employers don’t have to spend the valuable time or dollars to conduct a basic background check. Some reports suggest that having a clearance can even increase your salary by $5,000 to $15,00 dollars or more.

Without a doubt, having a security clearance is a plus for your career.

Losing one, however?

There are a number of ways you could potentially jeopardize possession of your ever-so marketable credential. Let’s count some of the ways, extrapolated from the 2011 annals of industrial security clearance decisions made, shall we?

#1. Fail a random drug test and do nothing about it.

Sure, you may be completely innocent (or not), but unless you take the earnest initiative to show that you’re still worthy of continued access to classified information, sayonara buddy.

Just saying that you are innocent and getting your co-workers to speak on your behalf isn’t enough. You have to prove that while you may be weak, you are strong by virtue of your demonstrative corrective actions.

#2 Admit your past drug use but fail to distance yourself from the partying pack.

You get kudos for coming clean on your former illegal habits, but you don’t get to pass go or collect $200 here because, sadly, you still associate, on or off the job, with those admitted co-tokers.

The lesson here when it comes to past illegal offenses? Be truthful and then keep your distance from those with whom you indulged. While you’re at it, hope that the passing of time works in your favor. In other words, put “grow up” in big letters and underline it on your to do list.

#3 Be an admitted pervert and then deny that you are an admitted pervert.

Maybe the lights were too hot or the room was too small. Maybe the interrogation strategies of the bad cop were superior to those doled out by the good cop. Whatever. Once you confess the scary and yes, disgusting specifics of your sordid sexual behaviors, don’t expect your future claims of snow-white innocence to be taken seriously. Seriously.

And don’t cruise pornographic websites at work, either. Someone is watching you doing the watching. Ironically creepy, isn’t it?

#4 Carry large amounts of delinquent debt on your credit report.

If you’re going to be entrusted with issues of national security, you’ve got to at least be able to pay your bills on time, don’t you think? People in over their heads financially may be more likely to accept kickbacks, bribes and other payments in exchange for classified information.

If you do find yourself in financial straits, seek professional assistance in dealing with the debt. In today’s economy debt is unfortunately, often a fact of life. It’s not the debt that’s the problem, most often, it’s how you deal with it. And how you address a debt problem could mean the difference between losing your clearance and actually getting to keep it.

#5 Rack up a criminal history.

The first offense may have resulted in a mere misdemeanor but the felony charge coupled with the fact that you lied about your criminal history on some random form isn’t doing you any favors. Your career is taking off. It is, however, taking off in the wrong direction.

#6 Show a significant foreign preference or influence.

You opened a bank account while stationed in the sandbox hoping to capitalize on some sweet financial returns and you forgot to close it when you left. Your spouse’s immediate family members, with whom you are equally close, reside in an area widely accepted as a robust training ground for extremism. A distant family member by marriage is a member of a foreign military. You hold a security clearance from another country as well and there is a potential for a conflict of interest.

The question appears to become, whose side are you really on here? According to case studies, it is surmised that close association with foreign contacts and interests could lead to poor judgment at some point where national security secrets are concerned.

Makes you want to double check who your friends are on Facebook, doesn’t it?

#7 Sloppy OPSEC.

You did not safeguard classified information properly. You hauled the data out of the secured workplace and stored it on your laptop or home computer. Then you tried to cover up your tracks. Or your laptop, with the privileged information on it, was stolen. Epic fail there, Sparky. Epic fail.

#8 Drink your career down the tubes.

Show up to work reeking of eau de alcohol cologne. Get arrested a time or two for embarrassingly drunk and disorderly conduct. Secure a couple DUIs while you’re at it and you’ll be paving the certain road to security clearance loss among other things.

Let’s be clear. Life can be messy even for honorable and trustworthy individuals. No one is perfect. People with security clearances are not immune from making stupid mistakes or from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens every day.

Just because you could lose your security clearance at some point doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose it. The proverbial devil will be in those pesky details.

Did you do it? Do you admit to doing it? Why did you do it? What have you done to make the situation right?

What happened is one thing.

What happened next could determine whether you lose your security clearance or not.

Janet Farley is the author of The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide and the forth-coming Quick Job Search for Transitioning Service Members: Seven Steps to Landing a Good Job Fast.

Janet Farley is the author of the Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Inc, 2012). She writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspapers.