Alcohol consumption is one of the 13 adjudicative guidelines because of the possible impact of questionable judgement, failure to control impulses and the applicant’s reliability and trustworthiness. These concerns are serious and could impact national security where they involve someone working with sensitive or classified information. After reviewing case studies, it’s not too difficult to see the impact of alcohol use on people’s lives.

Consider the following cases that demonstrate how alcohol consumption can impact security clearances. There are many more recorded, but these few will give an idea. Two cases demonstrate denial of security clearances, while one shows how the applicant adequately demonstrated mitigation and a security clearance is granted.

“I can handle it”

Applicant has had numerous alcohol-related driving arrests. She paid fees and fines, and completed probation.  However, she did not seek help in dealing with her issues with alcohol. At a later date, the applicant was involved in an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  She was found guilty of DWI and sentenced to 180 days, paid fines and had probation.

After the last incident, she finally sought help with alcohol counseling. The counselor noted that the applicant met the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder in early remission and that her participation in therapy and continued abstinence are positive indicators. However, the applicant does not abstain from drinking, against the counselor’s recommendations, and said that she feels she is in control and if there is a social event she will drink. The judge felt the applicant had not properly mitigated the concerns and denied the applicant a security clearance.

Completed some requirements

An applicant was refused a security clearance based on Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption. Later he appealed the decision stating he had adequately mitigated the behavior. The judge reiterated the facts for the appeal that demonstrated public drunkenness and driving while intoxicated. For a two-year period, the applicant actually did attend counseling for alcohol problems and was diagnosed with alcohol dependence. He reported it was in full remission. However, less than a year later he was convicted of impaired driving.

The judge supported the denial of a security clearance because of the evidence that the applicant continued to consume alcohol and become intoxicated. Though the applicant was attending counseling, he also continued to drink and drive. The applicant’s behavior demonstrated that he had not done enough to mitigate the concerns.

Just need to let off some steam

Applicant took three days off work to drink as his way of dealing with stress. There was enough other evidence of alcohol use for the judge to make the finding that the applicant was abusing alcohol. One consideration is habitual or binge consumption of alcohol to the point of impaired judgment, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. The security significance of the drinking episode is significant even though it did not result in an arrest or other involvement with law enforcement officials.

I’m just trying to get it right

The final applicant in this article developed a drinking problem after getting in trouble at work. He was terminated and while at home started drinking. He became dependent on alcohol and by the time he got a new job, his dependence on alcohol led to problems on his new job.

After many attempts to stop on his own, he recognized that he had a drinking problem and sought treatment. He had several relapses during treatment, but continued to be honest with counselors and his employer and continued to get help.

While he had several relapses, the judge considered the fact that he was committed to abstinence, had not consumed alcohol in two years, and is being supported by Alcoholics Anonymous and his family. In this case the judge determined the applicant had mitigated concerns and granted the request for a security clearance.

Alcohol consumption can contribute to making bad decisions that puts classified information at risk. Therefore, decisions against a security clearance may be made even if an applicant has never been charged or arrested for an alcohol related event. Abusing alcohol has proven a sufficient finding to deny a clearance. Where the applicant recognized the problem, sought treatment, and had a recent history of abstinence, the judge determined the risk under the guideline was sufficiently mitigated.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @