Historically, the personnel security system has relied on the integrity of its applicants – with a pretty high success rate. After an initial investigation designed to ensure the trustworthiness of an individual and which varies based on the amount and level of access their position requires, the government depends upon a system of self-reporting to ensure those individuals still merit that access.
The requirement to self-report still exists, but it’s now enhanced with continuous evaluation. The government has not been particularly forthcoming about the specifics of its continuous evaluation program, but the assumption is that it is continually pulling from a variety of online sources to track any publicly available information about an individual. That information may include bankruptcies, credit issues, or even online activities on social networks and dating sites. In a recent Department of Homeland Security/National Background Investigations Bureau pilot, investigators confirmed they were also culling the dark web, non-indexed websites where criminal activity is rampant.
What does Continuous Evaluation mean for Self-Reporting?
If you’re one of the one-quarter of security clearance holders who are under continuous evaluation (CE), you may falsely assume CE negates your requirement to self report issues. It doesn’t. CE is currently an ‘add-on’ program – it doesn’t change or negate any requirements under the personnel security program. The good news is you shouldn’t be surprised by any information discovered under CE – it’s audit will be based on the adjudicative guidelines and the information you’re already aware is an issue from filling out your initial SF-86.
Where security clearance holders may experience an issue is if they fail to self-report a problem, and then it’s flagged under CE. You may not just have issues based on the problem flagged, but may face the further character issue of having not reported it.
It’s critical to remember that many issues – from bankruptcy to a DUI – may be mitigated. Trying to hide that behavior from the boss or the government is often a greater issue than the behavior itself. The roll-out of CE is a great reminder of the importance of self-reporting issues -it displays your character and honesty.