If you have been denied a security clearance, you may be wondering what your options are now. When can you re-apply? Is a reapplication even worth your time?

The answers to these questions vary slightly depending upon the federal agency at issue. There is, however, one commonality: you must wait at least one (1) full year after a denial before reapplying for a security clearance at the same agency. Practically speaking, you should probably anticipate waiting at least one (1) full year to reapply to any agency unless unusual circumstances exist.

The Department of Defense

For a more detailed analysis, we’ll start with the Department of Defense – the agency that issues the vast majority of security clearances. DoD has two tracks by which clearances are adjudicated: (1) military and federal civilian employees, and (2) federal contractors. If you fall under the first category, your employing office or branch will simply need to resubmit you for a clearance with a written request for reconsideration. If, however you fall under the second category, the process is a bit more complicated.

To start, your employer will need to resubmit you for a clearance. Usually about 60-90 days after the resubmission, the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) will issue a letter requesting that you, the applicant, explain what about your situation has changed since your denial to the extent that it would warrant reconsideration. This is a critical step and a one-shot deal; if you fail to respond to the letter or you fail to provide sufficient evidence of changed circumstances, you now must wait an entire additional year before you can make another attempt at reapplication. Applicants should never attempt to respond to a reapplication letter without the assistance of a competent security clearance attorney.

It is important to understand that even in the event of a successful reapplication, federal contractors must still re-submit to the entire investigative and adjudicative process. In other words, the reapplication authorization is only approval for the applicant to even reapply in the first place. The authorization is not itself an adjudicative decision or the granting of the clearance. This is another important reason to ensure that you have legal representation from the first stage. After all, a successful reapplication authorization means nothing but wasted time if the clearance is ultimately denied again.

The Intelligence Community

Besides the Department of Defense, the other main denier of security clearances is the Intelligence Community (IC). To say that IC agencies march to their own drummer on security clearance decisions is an understatement. There is virtually no transparency on clearance decisions, nor is there seemingly much emphasis placed on anything besides the almighty polygraph. As a result, my general advice to denied IC applicants is that the one year reapplication timeline is a farce. I have yet to see one case in which an IC agency granted a clearance only one year after previously denying it. Previously denied applicants at an IC agency would do better to maintain a clearance at another agency for a few years, establish a track record of responsibility there, then reapply within the IC at a later date.

No matter where in the federal government you submit a reapplication for clearance post-denial, the fact is that your case will receive close scrutiny and most likely heavy-handed adjudication. You must be prepared to thoroughly – and with evidence – explain how the circumstances that resulted in your prior denial are no longer an issue now and why the agency should expend time and resources giving you a second chance. We have done it successfully for our clients, but it can be a tall order.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at https://www.berrylegal.com/practice-areas/security-clearance/.