If the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow is in liquid format, or if your last St. Paddy’s day ended in the back of a paddy wagon here is a friendly word of caution: watch your liquor intake this year.

A one-off mistake involving excessive alcohol consumption is typically viewed as forgivable by government security officials, but a repeat performance in close proximity can be quite problematic. Year after year we see cases of clearance holders who over-imbibe during holiday celebrations or family gatherings. Inevitably, a domino-effect of bad decisions follow and a few months later our phone is ringing with a clearance revocation.

There is plenty of St. Patrick’s Day fun to be had that doesn’t involve drinking at all. But if you do drink, here are a few things to keep in mind:

“Loose Lips Sink Ships”

This World War II-era guidance about discretion rings as true today as ever. As a security clearance holder, you’re carrying around in your head a whole lot of information that America’s enemies would love to know. The likelihood that your bar seat-mate just happens to be a foreign spy is slim, but its not inconceivable – especially in a place like Washington, D.C. Be wary of overly friendly or interested “new friends” and don’t be that guy (or girl) loudly talking shop in a public place.

Put Away CACs and Agency ID Badges

If I had a dollar for every clearance holder walking around D.C. with their agency’s access ID badge prominently displayed around their neck, I’d have long ago sailed off into retirement. I realize that it’s easy to overlook hiding a badge when leaving the workplace, and I’ll admit that I was occasionally guilty of doing this myself back in my government service days. But failing to hide your badge(s) makes you both a target and a walking representative of your agency after hours. If you’re falling down drunk while displaying your Common Access Card or agency’s ID badge you may be inviting some serious trouble. That includes anything from getting mugged to winding up on the front page of the Washington Post.

Know Your Self-Reporting Obligations

Finally, all clearance holders should be familiar with their self-reporting obligations under Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD)-3.  Any arrests, including those for Driving Under the Influence, Public Intoxication or Disorderly Conduct, must be immediately self-reported to your cognizant security official. Similarly, clearance holders should familiarize themselves with the portion of SEAD-3 that outlines their reporting obligations with respect to observations of cleared colleagues. For more on that, see my recent article, “What Coworker Behavior You’re Required to Report if you Have a Security Clearance.”

Cheers to a safe and enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day 2019.


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

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Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials, revocations, and the security clearance application process. He is a former investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management). For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com. Readers will also find a low-cost, self-help option for obtaining copies of their security clearance background investigations and DISS/Scattered Castles records at www.bigleylaw.com/security-clearance-investigation-records.