With 2021 quickly coming to a close, you may have begun thinking about some New Year’s resolutions like kicking a bad habit or starting a good one. Doing what might be called “security clearance maintenance” probably isn’t on that list, but I’d submit that perhaps it should be. An ounce of prevention is, indeed, worth a pound of cure.

4 Tasks to Start the New Year

With that in mind, here are a few preventative suggestions to consider:

1. Pull Copies of Your Credit Reports

Year after year, the number one reason for security clearance denials is financial delinquencies. Many of my clients have no idea what is on their credit reports until they’re already facing a clearance denial or revocation. Don’t let that happen to you!

Under federal law, every consumer is entitled to one free copy of their credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) annually. You can get it at www.annualcreditreport.com, and I encourage all clearance-holders to make a habit of doing so. Prompt, good-faith efforts to address delinquent debts are generally all it takes to avoid much larger problems down the road.

2. Get a Jump-Start on Filing Your 2021 Income Tax Returns

Within the category of financial cases, those involving delinquent tax obligations (including late filing when a refund is due) are some of the most difficult to win. The government’s argument is that a person who is unconcerned with meeting their tax obligations might also be unconcerned with the rules for safeguarding classified information. Avoid the perils of procrastination by getting documents in order early and locating a tax professional to assist with filing, as needed, before the spring rush.

3. Talk with Your Facility Security Officer or Security Manager

The rules for handling, storing, transporting, and marking classified information are complex and not always intuitive. They also occasionally change as threats evolve and new technologies emerge. Your local Facility Security Officer or security manager is charged with keeping up-to-date on all of this and can prove a valuable resource. Don’t just utilize him or her when problems arise; take an hour to proactively review and discuss any changes that have occurred in the last year.

4. Read Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD)-3

Finally, no mention of changed policies would be complete without a reference to SEAD-3. Haven’t heard of it? You’re in good company, despite the fact that it applies to all cleared federal employees, service members, and contractors and answers the eternal question, “do I need to report that to security?”

I’ve included a link to SEAD-3 here for convenience. Keep in mind, however, that some agencies may have supplemental self-reporting requirements, especially involving situations where an actual or perceived conflict-of-interest arises between the individual’s job duties and an outside activity, affiliation, or employment. When in doubt, ask your security and/or ethics office.


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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Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials, revocations, and the security clearance application process. He is a former investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management). For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com. Readers will also find a low-cost, self-help option for obtaining copies of their security clearance background investigations and DISS/Scattered Castles records at www.bigleylaw.com/security-clearance-investigation-records.