After the crucible of the SF-86, months of waiting, a background interview and maybe even a polygraph exam, you get an unwelcome letter in the mail: the Statement of Reasons. A Statement of Reasons (SOR) is a preliminary notice of security clearance denial. It offers the applicant in detail the reasons for why their security clearance has been denied. Did you lie about past drug use?  Is your debt too massive or poorly managed? Does your Iranian girlfriend present a security concern? These could all be explanations detailed in an SOR.

While receiving a SOR is definitely concerning, it is not the final word in the security clearance process – you can appeal it. A user on the ClearanceJobs Blog recently asked “How to beat a SOR?” This was their original post:

Hello all, I have been accused of lying by my adjudicator even though I told the truth.

What is stated in the sole charge is that I have no regard for the truth and there is no further explanation other than the exact same details about an ESI and TESI which I fully agree with? Am I supposed to lie so that I can pass now? Does anyone (especially such as Marko Hakamaa [moderator of ClearanceJobs Blog]) have any insight on how I’m supposed to answer this?

As the original poster continues, he was charged several times in the past with underage drinking which he forgot to report. He also has multiple debts which are not currently being paid down. There’s a whole lot going on here, so I would encourage you to read the entire thread. Let’s break this down.

What is a security clearance Statement of Reasons (SOR) and how should you respond?

When adjudicators have sufficient information to make a clearance decision, they can either grant the clearance or write an SOR explaining why granting a clearance is not “clearly consistent with the interests of national security.”  The SOR must provide “as comprehensive and detailed a written explanation of the basis for that conclusion as the national security interest of the United States and other applicable law permit.”  Once the SOR is completed, it’s sent to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) for review and approval, before it’s sent to the applicant.

After receiving a SOR, government contractors are required to submit a written response to the SOR within 20 days of the date received.  Failure to do so will result in your clearance being denied or revoked without further consideration.  If you need extra time to write your SOR response or collect documents to support it, it’s usually possible to request and obtain a 20-day extension.  Longer extensions require strong justification. The SOR cover letter will list a DoD CAF email address where you can send your request for an extension.

The SOR will quote each applicable security concern as listed in the Adjudicative Guidelines.  Below each concern will appear one or more subparagraphs with allegations of specific potentially disqualifying incidents or conditions drawn from your investigative file.  The SOR cover letter instructs you to answer each subparagraph by stating, “I admit” or “I deny.”  The instructions go on to say, “You also may provide additional information that explains, refutes, extenuates, or mitigates the [allegations].”  In reality, failure to provide “additional information” will eliminate any possibility of having your case favorably resolved at this stage.

With SORs, DOHA, and the entire security clearance process, honesty is the best policy

When responding to the SOR, here are some helpful things to keep in mind. In particular, stick to the facts. While this can be an emotional process, that is not what DOHA needs to see – they are looking for factual explanations for why reasons for denial should be reconsidered.

Everyone’s case is different, but if you’ve received an SOR, an adjudicator with all your information, considering you under the “whole person” concept, has found that granting you a clearance would not be consistent with national security. Given the scrutiny of the security clearance process, DOHA is likely not swayed by an explanation of “I forgot about this.” However, if you do find yourself in such a position, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a security clearance advisor or attorney.

To put it most simply, this case offers a simple reminder: be honest and be thorough. The original poster insists that he was honest. Even that’s the case, he failed to be thorough. Don’t risk your cleared career by failing to read directions thoroughly or do your due diligence in recounting any past misdeeds. When it comes to the federal government, William Shakespeare was right: truth will out.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, ClearanceJobs maintains – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed  on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum

If you have a tough security clearance question, you can post your questions or concerns on

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Caroline's background is in public policy, non-profit fundraising, and - oddly enough - park rangering. Though she once dreamed of serving America secretly in the CIA, she's grateful she's gotten to serve America publicly - both through the National Park Service and right here at ClearanceJobs.