ASK THE GENERAL COUNSEL
Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com.
It’s no secret that the security clearance process is seriously backlogged government-wide. If the countless “what can I do to speed this up” (answer: nothing) phone calls I receive didn’t confirm this via anecdotal evidence, recent news reports certainly do. Those reports show an average wait time of one (1) year for a SECRET clearance and 500 days for a TOP SECRET clearance.
Believe me: I understand the exasperation and concur that the investigative process is broken. But, as I indicated above, there is nothing an individual clearance holder can realistically do about it – and untold numbers of others who share the same predicament. The good news is that a savvy security clearance applicant can actually leverage the delays to his or her benefit.
As I’ve written about previously, there are many situations in which delays in the process work to the benefit of an applicant, giving him or her – for example – time to pay debts, prove sobriety, or obtain records and documents vital to mounting a successful defense to security allegations. Generally speaking, many issues like past criminal conduct are mitigated (at least in part) by the passage of time without recurrent behavior.
But there are also other things that prospective clearance holders can do to minimize the impact of delays or even turn them into a net positive. For example:
- Consider taking advantage of any opportunities provided by your clearance sponsor (federal contractor or agency) for reimbursable training or higher education. If you can’t work on classified projects, you may be able to instead improve your skills or knowledge in ways that make you a more attractive employee in the long-run.
- Offer your services to the employer at a lower pay-grade pending approval of the clearance. In a world of budget-conscious government contracting, a gesture of goodwill like this may go a long way in keeping you on payroll long enough to actually get the clearance. The alternative is sometimes that frustrated cleared contractors are terminating great candidates awaiting clearances in favor of lesser-qualified, but already cleared, individuals who can start work immediately.
- Re-check your SF-86 for accuracy and completeness. Little things like listing the wrong ZIP code for a reference are actually big deals because your case is farmed out to investigators based upon their geographic location. If you catch a mistake like this, be sure to contact your background investigator immediately and advise him or her of the error.
Ultimately, security clearance delays are still a hassle and a frustration for both employees and employers. But until the government finally gets its act together, these delays will be a fact of cleared life. Leverage them to your benefit, where possible.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.