The government is one-year into a complete overhaul of the security clearance process. Trusted Workforce 2.0 is well along, and it aims to improve the security clearance suitability and credentialing process, which is currently grounded in a security framework more than a half-century old.

Among the security clearance reforms on the table is a change to the matrix that establishes who is trustworthy – and who isn’t. Security clearance determinations are based on the ‘whole person’ concept – what that means is no single issue will automatically result in security clearance denial or revocation. That means whatever baggage you have in your past – from drug use to jail time – you can mitigate those issues by showing the totality of your character, and why you can be trusted with government secrets.

The whole person concept is a good thing for security clearance applicants, but it does involve some ambiguity. An issue which is a problem for one applicant may not be an issue for another. Why? Because the government will consider your actions through the lens of any extenuating circumstances.

The best advice is to not overshare on the SF-86 security clearance application. The one caveat is that if you have a reportable issue, providing context is likely in your behavior. Have significant debt? Provide medical bills or legal documentation that outlines why your financial issues occurred and how the issue was outside of your control. Have a criminal background? Provide character references who can attest to the person you are today – a very different person than the one who committed the crime years ago.

Who are you as a person?

You’re more than that one bad decision you made your freshman year of college. And fortunately, the ‘whole person’ policy of the government agrees.

It’s still unclear if the whole person concept will remain in Trusted Workforce 2.0. But even if it goes away, one can hope the concept – that a person is more than a single action – remains.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer