As younger generations enlist in our nation’s military, it’s important to be educated on the security clearance process. In some instances, you may have heard of a military recruiter filling out your SF-86 as they are asking you the questions. Unfortunately, there is potential that a statement on this long document didn’t really sink in if it was read aloud to you. In the slam of paperwork that comes with military service, some applicants may find themselves failing to understand the gravity of the form – even though it requires a signature to verify everything is correct.

Impact of Falsifying SF-86

The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully make any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations in any matter within the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the U.S. Falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which could result in fines or up to five years imprisonment. In addition, Federal agencies generally fir or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified these forms, and this remains a part of the permanent record for future placements.

The SF-86 is Your Document

A subscriber to the ClearanceJobsBlog unfortunately ran into this issue:

 “I had to submit an SF86 when I joined the Army and my recruiter was the one who filled it out. I just sat all gullible in the chair while he asked me questions and typed answers in for me. His station was having issues with recruitment so they would lie on paper and do whatever they could to get soldiers into the military. When he asked me about prior drug use and I told him about my prior use. He said that’s fine, it’s nothing to worry about. Fast forward a few years later and I’m trying to change MOS’s and need to get a TS/SCI. I have to resubmit a new SF86 but the old one is on file saying that I have never partaken in drugs. Not really sure what to do or if I let some E6 ruin my future. I’m damn sure not about to ride that out and submit a new one falsely on purpose. My best defense is negligence and that doesn’t help at all.

Ultimately, it’s my document and word but I definite didn’t have the intent to lie or deceive. Am I screwed or is there a chance I would be able to get past that?

Update #1: I’m going to go talk to JAG today to get legal counsel and protect myself. After speaking to them I’m going to go talk with my security manager and see what I can work out as far as correcting this.

I’m gonna keep this form updated just so that anyone whoever ends up in this circumstance has some idea. I’ve seen 1 form post about something like this and it’s not really helpful at all for the soldier dealing with this kind of a thing.”

Inaccurate Information on the SF-86

Filling out the SF-86 is serious business no matter who you are and what your background is. Applying for a security clearance is a privilege, and they sure do let you know it as you work through the 127-page questionnaire. When it’s time to apply for your security clearance, be serious, be truthful, and be thorough.

For this person on the ClearanceJobsBlog, it’s important to note that issues of falsifying this information really come down to intent. Did the individual intentionally lie, or was this a lack of oversight? Adjudicative guidelines explicitly list ‘deliberate’ falsification or omission. Circumstances where applicants fail to provide accurate information on the SF-86 are mitigated if the individual can provide proof of the intent.

Mitigating the drug use

Adjudicators consider the ‘whole person’ when making any adjudicative decision or when you are mitigating issues surrounding clearance denials or revocations. A single incidence of providing false information on the SF-86 is often not grounds for denial – unless the individual claims the incident didn’t happen altogether or if other red flag behavior is discovered during the investigation.

Past drug use is rarely an issue when the applicant can show time between the use. A current user of illegal drugs cannot be granted a security clearance. Using illegal drugs a few months prior to submitting a clearance application form can be considered current use. Past drug abuse is evaluated based on the type of drugs used, the frequency of use, how recently they were used, or other circumstances or effects of the drug use.

The example above is a frequent one – the reality is the drug use would likely not have resulted in a security clearance denial. Lying about the drug use is another issue entirely.


Your prospects of placement or a security clearance are better if you answer all questions truthfully and completely. You will have adequate opportunity to explain any information you provide on this form and to make your comments part of the record.

Tell the truth, follow the rules, fill out your own paperwork, and consult a security clearance attorney when needed.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. 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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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸