This was an extraordinary year unlike no other with COVID-19 dominating current events. However, the impact on national security background investigations and security clearances seems to have been minimal with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) reporting significant improvements in background investigation timeliness and the number of investigations in the inventory. There does, however, appear to be an impact on the number of appeals submitted to the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) Board, having only heard 529 initial DoD clearance denial appeals in 2020 as of their last posting, an almost 50% decrease from 2019. As in previous years, financial issues continue to outpace all other issues combined.

Breakdown of Denials by Adjudicative Guidelines

Below is a breakdown by adjudicative category of the types of issues involved resulting in the initial denial (Note – many cases had multiple issues):

Adjudicative Guideline 2019 2020
Guideline A: Allegiance to the U.S 1 0
Guideline B: Foreign Influence 135 56
Guideline C: Foreign Preference 13 6
Guideline D: Sexual Behavior 20 6
Guideline E: Personal Conduct 211 123
Guideline F: Financial Considerations 522 287
Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption 61 26
Guideline H: Drug Involvement 75 42
Guideline I: Psychological Conditions 17 7
Guideline J: Criminal Conduct 63 24
Guideline K: Handling Protected Information 14 7
Guideline L: Outside Activities 2 0
Guideline M: Use of IT Systems 10 5

Resources for Clearance Holders

Looking at the numbers compared with last year, no significant changes were noted when considering the fewer number of cases heard. As always, I recommend those seeking or already holding a clearance visit and the ClearanceJobsBlog forum to browse through the enormous amount of valuable information posted by subject matter experts and those who have already gone or are going through the security clearance process. It’s normal to be worried about how different life events might impact your clearance process. No one wants to see their career in national security end before it really gets a chance to start, so be sure to check for completing your SF-86, getting through your background investigation, or other tips.

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Marko Hakamaa served in various military police positions with the United States Army worldwide for 22 years before retiring in 2006 as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he transitioned into the civilian workforce as a contractor background investigator for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) before entering civil service as a Security Specialist in 2009.