As any security professional can tell you, the security clearance process is undergoing some tremendous change. Not only is the process being transferred from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to the Department of Defense, but those in charge are reviewing the adjudicative guidelines, implementing new technology, and enrolling more people in continuous evaluation (CE). The pace and scope of these changes is bringing up a lot of questions for both security officers and clearance holders alike.
At a recent event, officials from the Vetting and Risk Operations Center (VROC) offered a little more detail on some hot button issues in the security clearance process. Here were a few of the questions security officers raised:
Will freezing my credit reports prevent continuous evaluation from accessing them?
Many consumers are opting to “freeze” their credit reports in order to protect their identities and their finances. But will this negatively affect obtaining or maintaining a security clearance? Nope. While the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) does ask clearance applicants to unfreeze their credit report upon submitting their SF-86, they can still access it without your doing so. Still, if you’re a first time applicant or undergoing a reinvestigation, temporarily unfreezing your credit report could help avoid unnecessary delays.
But what about those 1.15 million security clearance holders enrolled in continuous evaluation? CE depends on automated monitoring of data streams – including financial reports. It turns out that CE can access your credit reports even if they are frozen. This is just one of the many reasons why self-reporting any financial concerns is always better than waiting to be caught.
Both instances – freezing your credit and having it checked – should not negatively impact your credit score.
Should clearance holders report investments in the marijuana industry? Are investments considered a “reportable incident?”
VROC is still awaiting official guidance from Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence on this issue. In the meantime, there are points that are clear: marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, drug involvement is still forbidden to clearance holders, and self-reporting is always the right way to go.
VROC officials did confirm, however, that direct investment in marijuana stocks is a reportable incident. Indirect investment – for example, in a mutual fund that also involves other sources – is not reportable. Remember, though: just because something is “reportable” does not mean it will cause you to lose your clearance. It is neither good nor bad. Your marijuana investments, like everything else, will be one data point to consider in the evaluation of you as a whole person.
That said, you should self report these investments. CE will become more widespread over the coming years. You don’t want the system to find something you did not report. Let’s call it the “Nixon Rule:” most of the time, the cover-up will get you in more trouble than the act itself.
More often than not, security concerns that are self-reported can be mitigated. But when the government sees you’ve been hiding something, it gets understandably more suspicious.
…And what about Bitcoin???
Ah, Bitcoin. like the marijuana investments, security clearance guidance on Bitcoin is still pending. And VROC offered the same advice: it’s looked on neither favorably or negatively. It’s just best to be up front about it and let it be incorporated as a part of the whole person concept.
Like marijuana investments, cannabis-based products, and many other things, Bitcoin is a hotly-debated issue for security clearance holders. This article can offer a little more guidance on the legal perspective behind Bitcoin ownership and your security clearance. As always, just consider the potential costs of your investments and how the federal government might perceive them.