This story is fiction, but with minor variations in the details, it has happened and will continue to happen each year to hundreds of Department of Defense (DoD) personnel deployed to the Middle East. Unlike the soldier in this story, most will have their security clearances denied or revoked because they lack access to qualified professional assistance and other resources.
Twelve months prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Sergeant Smith was transferred from one military post to another and moved his family across the United States. Unable to sell or rent his home, he struggled for months to pay his mortgage while living and paying rent at a new residence. He became behind in payments on his mortgage, as well as several other debts. A few weeks before his deployment to Afghanistan, his mortgage became 120 days delinquent and the bank began foreclosure action against him. Because he held a Secret clearance, he reported this development to his security manager.
The security manager submitted an “Incident Report” via the DoD Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) as required. At the direction of the Army Central Clearance Facility (CCF) Smith submitted a new “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” (Standard Form 86—SF86) immediately before he deployed.
Army CCF requested a Reimbursable Suitability/Security Investigation (RSI) from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asking for a credit bureau report and a Subject Interview of Sergeant Smith. OPM obtained a credit bureau report, but was unable to interview Smith because he had already deployed to Afghanistan.
Based on only the credit bureau report and the delinquent account information listed in his SF86, Army CCF suspended Smith’s security clearance and sent him a Letter of Intent (LOI) to revoke his security clearance. The LOI contained a Statement of Reasons (SOR) explaining the exact reasons for this action. Sergeant Smith received and signed for the LOI at his forward operating base in Logar Province. The LOI stated he had 10 days to notify CCF through his military unit of his intention to respond to the SOR and 30 days to submit a response. On the advice of his security manager, Smith notified CCF of his intent to respond to the SOR and requested and received a 30-day extension to the SOR response deadline.
Sergeant Smith sought assistance from his unit security manager, as well as security managers at higher echelons of command. He was given instructions on the mechanics of responding to the SOR, but received no substantial assistance in formulating a response or guidance regarding applicable mitigating factors. Demoralized and overwhelmed by the LOI, Smith communicated his situation to his wife, even though he did not want to burden her with this additional problem.
Sergeant Smith’s wife went on the internet and located a personnel security consultant. With a small loan from her parents she engaged the services of the consultant. After a series of telephone calls and exchange of email between Smith, his wife, and the consultant, the consultant created an affidavit for the sergeant addressing each allegation and specification listed on the SOR. The affidavit described the events leading to the Smith’s financial problems, almost all of which were largely beyond his control.
The affidavit included a personal financial statement that showed additional income from his wife’s newly acquired job and a positive net monthly balance after all living expenses and debt payments. The affidavit explained that the Smith’s wife had gone to a consumer credit counseling service, which successfully negotiated lower interest rates and affordable monthly payments on their remaining debts. Attached to the affidavit were monthly account statements from the credit counseling service listing payments made to creditors. These monthly statements showed that all creditors listed on Smith’s credit report were being paid as agreed. The foreclosure had eliminated the mortgage debt and documentation was obtained from the bank showing there was no deficiency balance owed on the mortgage. Although at the time the affidavit was submitted to CCF, Smith and his wife had only made four payments to the credit counseling service (which in turn distributed payments to individual creditors); it was evident to CCF that Smith had sufficiently mitigated his past financial problems and was making consistent, systematic, good faith efforts to satisfy his debts. The “Incident Report” was favorable resolved in Sergeant Smith’s JPAS record, and his security clearance was reinstated.
Under ordinary circumstances Smith’s problem would probably have been resolved without an LOI being issued by CCF. Had a Subject Interview been completed, a competent investigator could have elicited most of the mitigating information directly from him, obtained a personal financial statement, and verified the status of his mortgage through bank records.
In Fiscal Year 2010 Army CCF issued LOIs to 20,398 soldiers, and 13,493 soldiers failed to respond to the LOIs. Their security clearances were automatically denied or revoked, and they forfeited any right to later appeal the denial/revocation. It’s unknown how many of these soldiers were deployed to the Middle East when they received their LOIs. Since more than 10% of the U.S. Army is the Middle East and since these soldiers are the least likely to respond to an LOI, the number in the Middle East that failed to respond to LOIs could exceed 1,300 a year.
William H. Henderson is a retired federal clearance investigator, the author of Security Clearance Manual and Issue Mitigation Handbook. He is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs.com. Copyright © 2012 Last Post Publishing. All rights reserved.