There are 13 adjudicative criteria used to determine someone’s eligibility to access classified information. Some are straightforward – it’s clear why the government would call out criminal conduct and financial issues in establishing if someone can follow the rules and steer clear of blackmail from foreign spies. Other adjudicative criteria, including sexual behavior and mental health, are less clear cut, and typically cause a bit more anxiety.
“I have a question about alcohol treatment and obtaining a security clearance. Last year, I decided to seek counseling for alcohol and spent about 3 months with a therapist. The treatment wasn’t court ordered or recommended by anyone like a spouse of family member. It’s been one year now since my sobriety and life is great. A job offer has come along that may require me to obtain a security clearance. Would alcohol treatment a year ago stand in the way of obtaining one?”
problem with alcohol? Seek help.
The adjudicative guideline for alcohol consumption states “Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to the exercise of questionable judgment or the failure to control impulses, and can raise questions about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness.” Excessive alcohol consumption, particularly that which leads to criminal conduct, employment issues, or impacts personal life, could create national security concerns.
If you have a problem with alcohol and go to a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or seek individual therapy and are in an extended period of sobriety, those are mitigating factors for prior issues with alcohol consumption. Admission of a medical condition is not an immediate disqualifier unless there are other personal conduct or criminal circumstances surrounding your situation. Alcoholism falls under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a disease, so if you engaged in a recovery program, that will be viewed as mitigating, not a negative. Being proactive in this way before obtaining a security clearance and maintaining a healthy lifestyle moving forward help an individuals chances of obtaining a clearance.
Current clearance holders may hesitate to take proactive steps to address alcohol issues because they fear negative implications for their security clearance. Like mental health, however, taking proactive steps to seek help and get treatment is viewed more favorably than allowing issues to grow and manifest. If the government finds you were trying to hide substance abuse issues, the lie is always viewed more negatively than the hard truth.
BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION ADVICE
Read up on the 13 adjudicative guidelines which include: allegiance to the United States, foreign influence, foreign preference, personal conduct, sexual behavior, financial considerations, alcohol consumption, drug involvement, psychological conditions, criminal conduct, handling protected information, use of IT systems, and outside activities.
Recognize that investigators and adjudicators are evaluating the relevance of your alcohol consumption and how it will affect you potentially handling sensitive information – taking a look at the nature, extent, and seriousness of your conduct in question, looking at all of the circumstances surround the conduct, noting the frequency/recency, and whether you sought out rehabilitation, followed through with behavioral changes and the likelihood of continuation.
Be honest. Time and time again, people who fail to disclose something while filling out their questionnaire find that it later comes up, and the lie usually results in clearance denial.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous holidays to be driving on the road due to alcohol related accidents. Holiday responsibly.