One of the lesser-known aspects of security clearance policy is that all federal departments and agencies authorized to grant security clearances are authorized to do so “conditionally”. This authority, only available explicitly since June 2017, means that an individual who would previously have been denied a security clearance might now qualify for one provided they agreed to comply with certain terms.

Conditional Eligibility Can Make the Difference

For some applicants with borderline cases, conditional eligibility can make the difference between a paycheck and the unemployment line. It is not something that should be overlooked! Yet few clearance-holders are aware that conditional eligibility exists, and it seems that even fewer employers and security managers understand that they have an active role to play if it is to be obtained.

It’s as simple as this: if you are an employer who wishes to retain a valuable employee facing security clearance problems, one way you can do that is to assess the government’s concerns and see if there is a way you can help alleviate them. For example:

  • Does your employee have a history of illegal drug use? Consider if you would be willing to administer random drug tests – even at the employee’s own expense – on occasion and report any positive result to the clearance-granting agency.
  • Does your employee have a history of alcoholism now in remission? Consider if you would be willing to administer random alcohol tests – even at the employee’s own expense – on occasion and report any positive result to the clearance granting agency.
  • Does your employee have a history of delinquent debts? Consider if you would be willing to accept periodic updates of payment plan progress and report any non-compliance to the clearance-granting agency.

Higher Retainment with Continuous Monitoring

Fundamentally, the employer’s role in such arrangements – especially at larger agencies like DoD – is most often to simply monitor the condition and report non-compliance. Since cleared employers are already required to report employee issues of adjudicative significance to the government, and since most cleared employers already have substance abuse testing and insider-threat programs in place already, the added burden is minimal to nothing.

Some employers have nonetheless expressed wariness of taking on this obligation for reasons that can best be summed up as “we’ve never done that before.” But consider that absent the employer’s agreement to monitor a condition – which the employee has to offer to the agency and the agency must accept – the employer stands to potentially lose a valued employee. That’s a lose-lose for both sides that may be entirely avoidable.


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