Will a GOMOR Kill My Security Clearance?

A GOMOR, or “General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand”, is essentially a written “chewing out” of a soldier by a General for any one of countless transgressions. One might assume that Generals have more important things to do, but GOMOR’s are issued with surprising frequency; we probably encounter them about once a quarter in our law practice alone.

Typically, a GOMOR is a career-killer for the soldier on the receiving end – as it is often meant to be. The GOMOR follows the soldier indefinitely unless filed only locally, which means it is seen by promotion boards and “Show Cause” boards alike. This renders the soldier attractive low-hanging fruit for administrative separation from service.

The dirty little secret about the GOMOR is that it is often (ab)used as a means of effectuating punishment against a soldier where the evidence would never support a case under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). No burden of proof must be met by the military for a GOMOR to issue; all that is required is “an objective decision by a competent authority” (and good luck disproving either of those elements). That means that a GOMOR is essentially extra-judicial punishment based solely on the whims of a single general with likely no legal or investigative experience. What could possibly go wrong?

A GOMOR for a Cleared Service Member

Fortunately, a security clearance holder with a GOMOR on file does have some protections in place; revocation of a clearance does not automatically follow.

In DoD industry cases (e.g. where the individual has left the service and is now working for a defense contractor), the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) adheres strictly to a standard of proof known as “substantial evidence.” To be clear, that is still a very low burden of proof for the government – far below “a preponderance of the evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” – but it’s something.

For those still in the military or who now work as a DoD civilian employee, DoD’s Consolidated Adjudications Facility takes a decidedly more deferential approach to GOMOR’s, often just regurgitating the same unsubstantiated allegations from the GOMOR into a Statement of Reasons (SOR) via a sloppy cut-and-paste job. Nonetheless, I’ve seen the CAF toss GOMOR’s that are obviously bogus, wildly unsubstantiated, or apparently retaliatory based solely on a strong written response to the SOR. Other agencies follow suit to varying degrees.

Ultimately, there is no way around the fact that a GOMOR isn’t helpful for advancing your career or obtaining / maintaining a security clearance. But if you happen to be on the receiving end of one, you should at least know that your security clearance isn’t going to be denied or revoked as arbitrarily as the GOMOR might have been issued. You’ll have an opportunity to challenge any adverse decision before a third-party, independent adjudicator – and you should take that opportunity seriously. It is entirely possible to win these cases.

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