Just because a worker has received a security clearance does not mean he has the ability to maintain it. Don’t let workers’ security clearance expire. Periodic reinvestigations of clearance holders are designed to ensure cleared workers remain suitable for access to classified information. If the results of a cleared worker’s reinvestigation are unfavorable, his security clearance can be revoked, leaving the worker without a job and a valuable career asset.

While the government’s adjudicative guidelines fairly clearly spell out a wide range of issues that can cause clearance denial, the most common reasons are (1) financial considerations, and (2) personal conduct. As evidenced by the growing number of lawyers specializing in clearance denial cases, these two most common categories have their complexities, and review of past legal outcomes shows some variation.

Financial Distress

Even though security-cleared workers benefit from as much as a 20 percent premium on compensation over their most equivalent non-cleared counterparts, the current U.S. recession has shown just about anyone can experience financial trouble. From lost 401ks and diminished mutual fund returns, to decreasing home values and a scarcity of lending, financial difficulties are the most common grounds for clearance denial.  Specifically, the adjudicative guidelines consider delinquent debt (amount and cause), irresponsible spending, and financial problems linked to drugs, alcohol, or gambling as key conditions that raise security concerns.

Although the length of time since the financial trouble weighs heavily on the judgment, specific actions can be taken by clearance holders to help mitigate these problems. First, showing consistent good-faith efforts to repay debt and ceasing any behavior which may be causing the debt is critical. Next, anyone with financial concerns should fully document their actions taken to settle debts and communicate with creditors including date, time, copies of correspondence, and other details. This documentation should be presented to investigators early in the inquiry. Finally, actively seeking out financial counseling is considered by adjudicators as an important and positive step towards fiscal responsibility.

Personal Conduct

The wide umbrella of “personal conduct” accounts for any behavior indicating the person may not properly safeguard classified information or could be subject to coercion or bribery. This could include a range of activities from lying or deliberately providing falsehoods to an employer or government official, drug or alcohol use and abuse, criminal behavior, sexual misconduct, and disregard for workplace rules, policies, or laws.

Since the “personal conduct” category offers a dizzying array of potential issues that can affect clearance denial, reviewing past legal outcomes is the best starting place to learn how to best mitigate one’s particular problem. As with financial issues, the length of time since the incident(s) or offence(s) is a primary mitigating factor. For the best course of action, individuals should proactively take clear steps to recognize and reconcile the behavior, such as receiving professional counseling and forms of group support. Additionally, the individual should do what he can to reduce vulnerability to coercion or duress. This may include ceasing involvement with persons suspected of criminal activity or bad influence, enrolling in substance abuse programs, returning stolen items, or letting family members know about previously hidden troubles or troublesome conduct. Again, documentation is critical to show a security clearance adjudicator a pattern of positive behavior.

A brief statement on psychological conditions should be noted. Not surprisingly, the global financial recession has been fingered for driving a significant increase in reported mental health problems to hospitals, clinics, and telephone hot lines. Anxieties over job security, retirement savings, and homelessness have made mental well being a far more common health concern than it was a half decade ago. Many security clearance holders are surprised to learn that simply having mental or psychological issues and/or receiving professional treatment for them does not immediately suggest loss of clearance suitability. In fact, very few clearances are denied solely for mental health issues. If a licensed mental health professional deems a clearance holder’s condition could impair his judgment or ability to properly protect classified information, the clearance could be revoked.

Those of us fortunate enough to be trusted with security clearances would do well to safeguard this valuable career asset – especially in today’s weak job market. The key is simply understanding the most common reasons for loss of clearance suitability. Within reason, most of these common reasons can be mitigated. For more information, consult the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, as found on many U.S. government websites.

Related News

Evan H. Lesser is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ClearanceJobs.com. Before founding ClearanceJobs, Mr. Lesser managed technical projects with CACI for the U.S. Navy's Science and Technology directorate at the Pentagon, and for the Joint Technology Panel on Electronic Warfare. Previously, he worked for Boeing on its Reserve Component Automation System program for the U.S. Army in metro Washington, DC. Mr. Lesser has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Georgia in Athens, and lives and works in the Atlanta metropolitan area.