Another year has passed with COVID-19 still dominating the headlines. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) reported continued improvements in background investigation timeliness and a stable number of investigations in the inventory. The Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) Board reviewed 462 initial DoD security clearance denial appeals in 2021 as of their last posting. Of those 462 appeals, 335 denials were upheld, and 127 were granted clearance eligibility. As in previous years, financial issues continue to outpace all other issues combined. There was a marked increase in the number of denials involving illegal drug use, mostly stemming from the increased number of states who have legalized marijuana use.

Allegiance to the U.S. once again produced no security clearance denials. Misuse of IT Systems and Handling Protected Information produced fewer security security clearance denials in 2021 over 2020.


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

Adjudicative Guideline 2020 2021
Guideline A: Allegiance to the U.S 0 0
Guideline B: Foreign Influence 56 49
Guideline C: Foreign Preference 6 6
Guideline D: Sexual Behavior 6 16
Guideline E: Personal Conduct 123 94
Guideline F: Financial Considerations 287 318
Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption 26 22
Guideline H: Drug Involvement 42 71
Guideline I: Psychological Conditions 7 11
Guideline J: Criminal Conduct 24 43
Guideline K: Handling Protected Information 7 3
Guideline L: Outside Activities 0 0
Guideline M: Use of IT Systems 5 4


For 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.