Here’s your weekly DOHA dose – a shot of security clearance appeal cases and their outcome. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals releases the results of their security clearance appeals cases. They’re one of the best insights into which clearance cases are granted or denied in the Department of Defense.
True or False: If you’ve been granted a clearance in the past, and your circumstances don’t change, you’ll be able to get a security clearance in the future.
One thing you’ll note when you review the security clearance appeals listed on the DOHA site is that many are for initial applications, but many are also individuals who have previously held or currently hold a security clearance and are now facing a security clearance denial based on flagged issues or information discovered in a subsequent investigation for a new clearance or upgrade in clearance.
Many individuals assume that if they’ve favorably obtained a security clearance in the past, they will be able to in the future. Even if there is adverse information, the belief is that if it was mitigated previously, it should be mitigated again. But arguing that because a clearance was issued previously that it should be granted subsequently doesn’t work – for several reasons.
The first common issue that comes up for applicants applying for a clearance upgrade is that issues that would have been uncovered with a more comprehensive investigation weren’t. Issues that potentially should have been self reported come up in a Top Secret clearance investigation – and just because they weren’t an issue before doesn’t mean they won’t be now that the government knows.
The other issue is the significance of passage of time and patterns of behavior in making a whole person security clearance decision. A clearance may be granted because issues are minor or appear temporary. A security clearance holder who continues to have the same financial hardships or judgment issues years down the road gives a judge pause in moving forward with issuing a clearance upgrade or even continuing the existing clearance.
If I’ve told You Once….
An applicant for a security clearance was denied the security clearance and lost the appeal based on the financial issues criteria. In the appeal, the applicant noted that he’d had financial issues when he applied for a security clearance in 2007, and the issues were favorably adjudicated. The DOHA case noted: “The government is not estopped from making an adverse clearance determination despite prior favorable adjudications…This is especially true in cases, such as this, in which the adverse decision is based on concerns that have persisted since the earlier determination.”
The appeal also noted that the judge had given the applicant 60 days from the date of the current SOR to respond to any issues – but the applicant failed to take mitigating steps including financial counseling. For financial issues, in particular, the issue is less about the debt itself and more about what the applicant has done to address it. In this case, having had financial issues in 2007 – and still having financial issues in 2019 – doesn’t favor the applicant; it favors denial.
FALSE: A subsequent security clearance application can be denied – even for a clearance at the same level – if issues haven’t been addressed.
‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again’ can work – but only if an applicant takes steps to address issues. If the same issues are present during subsequent security clearance investigations, those issues only hinder and don’t help obtaining a favorable determination.