The novel coronavirus 2019’s (COVID-19) effect on the U.S. economy is monumental. It is reaching all sectors, from the small parts supplier to the large defense contractor, and has placed financial pressure on millions of families. Every individual granted a U.S. government security clearance understands the importance of fiscal responsibility and maintaining one’s finances. Indeed every counterintelligence briefing advises us how an individual who is perceived to be financially irresponsible is also perceived to be an attractive target to hostile foreign intelligence. For this reason, in a statement released March 23, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), William Evanina, acknowledged how the COVID-19 crisis may cause unexpected financial hardship to some holders of a security clearance.
Evanina stresses, “we are aware of the potential for economic hardship on security clearance holders.”
The Trusted Workforce 2.0 with the attendant Continuous Vetting (CV) highlights how one would normally see a negative adjudication decision for an individual who was found to be financial insolvent. Evanina emphasized how he has directed departments and agencies to consider as a mitigating factor financial hardship for those directly affected by COVID-19.
Given the number one adjudicative guideline resulting in security clearance denial for the Department of Defense is Security Executive Agent Directive 4 (SEAD 4) Guideline F; Financial Considerations, Evanina pointed to the exact portion of the guideline which discusses events beyond an individual’s control.
(b) the conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person’s control (e.g., loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, a death, divorce or separation, clear victimization by predatory lending practices, or identity theft), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances.
The guidance from the NCSC doesn’t negate the weight of other factors which may tip the scales toward a negative adjudication. In 2019, well ahead of the arrival of COVID-19, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, saw 522 cases which resulted in denial of appeals associated with one’s personal financial responsibility.
All cleared individual must continue to notify their FSO when they encounter financial hardship, regardless of mitigating circumstances resulting in the downturn in a clearance holder’s fiscal situation in accordance with the continuous vetting process.