Drug Involvement is one of the 13 adjudicative criteria which could lead to the denial or revocation of a security clearance. Even so, marijuana and opioids continue to be a concern for many applicants.
While drug involvement can raise questions about loyalty, reliability, and ability to protect classified information for initial security clearance assessments, currently there are no requirements to conduct recurring or random drug testing as a part of the security clearance process.
Obtaining a clearance vs getting hired
Security clearance applicants complete a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, better known as SF-86. The questionnaire requests information about drug usage that the applicant should populate accurately and completely. For initial security clearances, a drug test may be required after the SF-86 is completed. This would not be a part of the standard security clearance process, but a suitability requirement triggered by the agency granting eligibility.
The most obvious drug test trigger appears to occur as part of the initial position suitability or the general hiring process, which ensures the employee has not used drugs within a certain amount of time of testing. Some agencies have internal requirements such as the Department of Energy, which requires drug testing for initial security clearance granting or reinstating security clearances, but not for continuous monitoring once the clearance is granted.
employee suitability vs security clearance suitability
Government agencies and their cleared defense contractors require drug testing or screening prior to hiring new employees to address the issues of the employee’s suitability. Regardless of the security clearance needs, the new employee is often required to test as part of the hiring process. For example, a cleared employee changing jobs most likely will take a drug test while changing employers, as would the non-cleared employees. However, the same cleared employee may not be required to take a drug test while remaining at their current job. Cleared employees may experience random drug testing as part of an internal requirement as would non-cleared employees, but there are no consistent requirements for ongoing testing (they’re often called random for a reason).
Implications of a failed drug test
The results of a positive drug test are devastating. A drug test as a result of a safety violation or random employee selection will provide enough information to revoke a security clearance. While it may be possible to fight the results of a ‘failed positive’ – the chances are slim. The bottom line is that cleared employees should remain drug free. While there may not be a security clearance requirement to be randomly tested, cleared employees may be required to pass a drug test as part of the initial hiring process and may be required to do so again if drug use is suspected or randomly conducted regardless of whether or not the employee has a clearance.