It’s a story out of a security clearance horror story – an insignificant moment leads to a security clearance revoked. Prostitution, ingesting illegal substances, or a sudden series of bad financial moves, jeopardizes clearances. But what about less apparent scenarios? Avoid these five things if you want to keep your security clearance. 

1. Don’t reach for that poppy seed bagel!

Yes, poppy seeds can cause you to fail a drug test. It’s not just a myth or an old wive’s tale, as the Pentagon warned people recently about this very issue. Poppy seeds are derived from the same plant as heroin, and ingesting large quantities before a randomized drug test has the potential to trigger a false positive. While you’d have to consume a large amount, if you’re due for a randomized drug test, it’s best to skip the poppy seed bagel. 

2. Going on a trip? Report it.

Your allegiance to the United States has to be unwavering. So if not done properly, your upcoming trip to Australia could result in the loss of your clearance. You are required to report any trips abroad to your FSO and provide a detailed report upon your return. 

3. Keep your FSO in the loop of any status changes.

Did you recently get married? Buy a new house? Become a parent? Did you tell your FSO? Any major life change can potentially affect your clearance status and should be sent up the chain of command as soon as possible.

4. Keep an eye on your credit report.

Excessive debt or defaulting on a loan are major red flags to the federal government, as they can increase your risk of being the target of espionage. Missing payments or defaulting on loans can also make you look unreliable and untrustworthy. And don’t be careless when filing your taxes – paying Uncle Sam correctly is vital if you want to keep your security clearance.  

5. Operating a side business on government time.

If you’re getting paid with taxpayer funds, you should only perform government work during your set hours. It’s not illegal to own a side business, but it becomes a conflict of interest and a finable offense when the two blend. 

You worked hard to earn your security clearance; don’t lose it over a bagel. Be smart, transparent, and have clear boundaries about your government work, and you’ll be in the clear. But stay up-to-date with the security clearance adjudicative guidelines. The age-old excuse of “I didn’t know” doesn’t hold up as a winnable defense. 


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Phoebe Wells is the Public Relations & Partnerships Marketing Manager at ClearanceJobs and loves every aspect of her role. Creating content and working with the CJ team to connect cleared candidates with employers is incredibly rewarding, as the work ClearanceJobs does ultimately supports the mission of the U.S. As the daughter of a veteran and former cleared worker, she knows the sacrifices security and defense professionals make. She is honored to assist them in leveling up their careers. Plus, she gets to work from home in the Adirondack Mountains with her partner and two huskies!