One of the benefits to handling hundreds of security clearance denial and revocation cases annually is the ability to spot patterns and trends. One such trend my firm has observed over the years is the frequency with which minor timecard discrepancies are alleged as willful misconduct (i.e. time card fraud) without sufficient investigation or evidence of intent.

The worst offenders here are undoubtedly certain intelligence community agencies that, for example, repeatedly conflate time-and-materials contracts with their fixed price brethren.  The line of inquiry during a security interview typically looks something like this:

Security Official: “Have you ever inaccurately recorded your hours on a timecard?”

Clearance Applicant:  “Uh, I suppose I’ve sometimes been sloppy in my record-keeping or rounded my hours on occasion.”

Security Official:  “Did you realize you were committing time card fraud?”

Clearance Applicant:  “But I’m talking about work I was doing on a fixed price contract…”

Security Official:  “Time card fraud!”

To be clear, I’m not advocating being sloppy or rounding one’s hours on any time card. But as federal contractors are aware, there is, in fact, a significant difference between fixed price and time-and-materials contracts. Only in the latter does the occasional, reasonable “guesstimate” or “ballparking” of time potentially work an injury to the government customer. In fixed price contracts, the government customer is paying the same amount for services rendered whether those services take 100 hours or 1,000 hours, so the matter is largely moot.

Of course, more extensive timecard inaccuracies even on fixed price contracts may demonstrate a level of carelessness that is incompatible with holding a security clearance, and any evidence of timecard inaccuracies that defraud the contractor-employer (even if not the customer) are a whole other ballgame. But assuming no evidence exists of either issue – which, in these cases, it usually doesn’t – what I have otherwise described should not be the basis for a security clearance denial or revocation case. Too often, that’s not the situation.

The lesson here is simple: federal contractors can avoid this issue by simply treating all contracts as time-and-materials contracts for time-keeping purposes. Yes, the added self-awareness and discipline required to do this is a hassle, and no it shouldn’t have to be this way.  But I’ve seen enough careers needlessly jeopardized to say emphatically that that a more casual approach isn’t worth the risk.


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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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at