One of the many byproducts of current security clearance processing delays is the issue of what happens when someone begins the security clearance process – but then either loses interest in the job, or the company loses the position, before the security clearance is fully adjudicated.

In order to obtain a security clearance, access to classified information must be required for the job. A contractor or government agency can’t simply offer cleared positions and begin the sponsorship process unless the candidate is needed for the position. The State Department was criticized in a 2017 Office of Inspector General (OIG) report for putting both interns and an alternate through the security clearance process. The goal was to have both candidates available and cleared if the primary candidate dropped out. The problem? The government is then spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to clear someone it doesn’t need.

The government doesn’t generally give contractors this latitude to offer ‘just in case’ clearances. But in a world where getting a Top Secret security clearance may take three years, stuff happens. Both a candidate and contractor may encounter a change that means the security clearance is in process for a position that is no longer available.

What happens to the security clearance largely depends on the action taken by both the Facility Security Officer (FSO) submitting the security clearance request, and the government agency sponsoring the clearance. If the investigation is in the early stages, the security clearance request may be pulled – meaning the months the candidate spend waiting already are for naught, and he or she will have to embark upon the entire process again, with a new sponsoring company.

If the security clearance is further along in the process, or the FSO simply doesn’t inform the government the applicant is no longer needed, the security clearance process continues, and a security clearance is issued. That means the applicant does have eligibility to access classified information – even if there is no longer a clearance job for them to do with that company.

A question at the ClearanceJobs Discussions site recently addressed this issue:

I had contacted  the FSO and he told me my Secret clearance was granted in Feb’18. However, no one from the company informed me. Also, I tried to reach out HR they are not answering my email and phone calls. I’m not sure what I should do? 

The individual specifically wondered if this means he has a security clearance he can use to compete for other positions, or if the clearance is inactive. This example could simply be an issue of an unresponsive or vacationing human resources contact, or lack of communication between the FSO and HR. Or it could be the issue of the company losing the contract or job completely, and failing to inform the candidate.

The good news for the candidate is once you have a security clearance, sponsorship of that security clearance could be transferred to another company. The bad news for the government is there is no guarantee the individual will decide to accept another government position. If that doesn’t happen, the money and time invested in the security clearance is lost.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.