Q: What happens if I withhold information or provide false information on my security clearance application?

A: The U. S. Criminal Code provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines up to $10,000, 5 years imprisonment, or both. In addition, the agency may fire or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified information (omission of arrests, drug use, employment, medical history, assets, and liabilities, etc.) on the background investigation documentation or made false statements during the personal interview.

Why do candidates falsify information? In many cases they’re attempting to hide information related to drug use or criminal activity. In many of those cases those issues would NOT have resulted in a security clearance denial, had the individual been honest on their SF-86. An applicant does not need to be perfect in order to obtain a government security clearance. The security clearance investigation takes into account the ‘whole-person concept.’ An investigation is processed using thirteen adjudicative criteria. Those criteria are designed to analyze issues or behaviors that may make a person a security risk. Issues within these criteria may often be mitigated, including previous drug use, a misdemeanor offense, or delinquent debt.

In contrast, lying about issues on a security clearance application is seen as a recent and very severe effort to lie and mislead, and points to serious issues of misjudgment. Like the adjudicative criteria themselves, however, false information in a security clearance application can be mitigated, in a few very specific and rare circumstances. Honestly misunderstanding the questions, being mislead by a security officer or failing to realize the gravity of the document may be factors considered when false information is discovered. “Prompt, good-faith efforts to correct the omission, concealment, or falsification before being confronted with the facts” is a critical consideration when false information is discovered. If you discover an error or omission in your SF-86, bring it up immediately and be prepared to offer the reason behind your mistake.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer