It’s the fear of every clearance holder at some point. Did I screw up so much that I will lose my security clearance? It’s common to feel some anxiety – because a revoked clearance usually means job loss too. While some companies can move you to an unclassified project, not everyone has those options. So, what are some simple ways you can land a clearance revocation – and how can you avoid them?
5 Easy Ways to Lose Your Security Clearance
You might not be thinking about losing your security clearance, but work in national security long enough and you’ll hear all the stories. While there are some clear ways to run into security troubles (think drugs and law-breaking actions), sometimes, it’s the little things in life that get you.
1. Fail to self report foreign travel.
Self reporting isn’t something to ignore – and that includes foreign travel plans. So, if you want to visit your cousins in Iran, you’ll need to run that one up the pole before your epic vacay, as well as, afterwards. Your security officer isn’t interested in your vacation pictures, but they do need to hear details about your trip. With continuous vetting (CV) in play, unreported foreign travel will pop up on the radar and could cost you your security clearance.
2. Make multiple security violations.
Mistakes happen. In the world of national security, most mistakes don’t have to be the end of your career. A key piece of that ingredient is honesty in the reporting. Hiding or lying about security violations only makes you untrustworthy and unreliable to the federal government. No one is looking for perfect people, but they are looking for someone they can trust.
3. Make close and continuing relationships with foreign nationals – and don’t report them.
Managing relationships with foreign nationals can feel challenging to navigate. At what point does an acquaintance turn into a close and continuing relationship? Life is fast paced, and sometimes, that new neighbor you hit it off with at the barbecue asks you to go on a weekend fishing trip. They seem nice enough, and it felt too awkward to ask specific questions about nationality. It’s not until you’re at the lake when you find out your neighbor is from Russia. Failure to report to your security officer that you sat on the dock with a Russian national for about 10 hours over the weekend is a great way to fast track your security clearance revocation. You don’t have to live a secluded life. But you do have to report your relationships to security.
4. Start accruing debt – and fail to address it.
Everyone gets in a jam sometimes. Maybe the house started to break down a bit and with all the financial commitments, you had to open up a line of credit. The biggest issue with debt is whether or not you can keep up with it. There’s a reason why financial considerations are at the top of the list when it comes to security clearance denials. Severe debt means that a secret keeper could be at risk for being compromised. Pull your credit report and make sure you’re not missing payments. It may be hard to reduce costs or eliminate debt with the current economy, but it’s still a situation to be managing so that you don’t lose your clearance too.
5. Get a hidden side hustle.
It’s not that you can’t earn some extra cash on the side. It’s just that it matters what kind of job you choose to do. Your reporting matters too – both for tax purposes and for your day job’s timesheet. Once you figure out that you’re not violating any noncompete or security laws, at that point it’s a matter of clear documentation. There’s only 168 total hours in a week, so if your working hours between both gigs don’t add up, you should know that the federal government takes timecard fraud very seriously. It’s been pretty common in the remote world for employees to hold down at least two, and sometimes three jobs. And for tax purposes, all income streams need to be reported – or that can land you in hot water. You can find additional revenue streams, but you just have to be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s so you don’t lose your security clearance.
It’s Your Job to Track Items That Impact Your Clearance
Most clearance holders aren’t facing revocations all the time. But you can never be too cavalier about it because seemingly simple oversights can change the trajectory of your career. Even government-issued or company credit cards that are supposed to be automatically paid can trip some up. Missed payments due to submitting expense reports late in the payment cycle are still the clearance holders’ responsibility. So, keep an eye on your all your accounts, and when in doubt, be sure to self report before issues pop up under CV.