The Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) Board held 1,142 security clearance or federal suitability and placement hearings in 2016. Financial issues top the list of reasons for a clearance denial.

Far behind financial issues are personal conduct (often lying on a security clearance background check or SF86), drug involvement or foreign influence and foreign preference. It’s worth noting that drug involvement has moved up on the list of reasons for clearance denial or revocation. This may be use to the continued expansion of recreational marijuana laws in a variety of states, including the District of Columbia. Despite those changes, marijuana use continues to violate federal law and is the only issue that will always result in clearance denial.

It’s important to know that almost any issue can be favorably mitigated if an applicant takes the right steps. A very small number of security clearance applications result in denial. Most candidates are lost through attrition, especially as current backlogs can make uncomplicated cases drag on for more than a year.

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