Security Clearance: The Adjudicative Process

If you are being considered for a position that involves access to classified information, first you must pass a background investigation, then you must be given security clearance. As you are likely aware, the background investigation is thorough; you will have to attend a face-to-face interview with a U.S. Department of State (DS) investigator, you will have to submit a detailed “security package,” and highly trained investigators will weigh all the information in your package against the adjudicative guidelines for security clearance.

What are the adjudicative guidelines and what does the process entail?

What is the adjudicative process?

Merriam-Webster defines adjudicate as “to act as a judge.” True to the meaning, the adjudicative process is where DS investigators examine a significant period of time in a person’s life to make a decision if he or she would be an acceptable security risk. Meaning, the individual does not pose a threat to national security and they are eligible for security clearance.

For someone to obtain security clearance, he or she must meet the personnel security guidelines. That said, the adjudicative process specifically refers to carefully weighing the various facts about a person and deciding if they are not a threat to national security; this is known as the “whole person concept.”

During the adjudicative process, DS investigators weigh the following information about the person:

  • All available information about the person, including educational history, where they grew up, who their friends are, who their family is, etc.
  • Past and present information about the person, including juvenile delinquency, a history of domestic violence, etc.
  • Favorable information about the individual, including good grades in school, a good work record, any honors or recognitions, community service work, etc.
  • Unfavorable information, including poor credit history, any history of arrests, drug or alcohol addiction, any history of drug possession, and mental health issues etc.

The adjudicative process can be nerve-wracking for an individual, especially since every submission is handled on a case-by-case basis. Each person has a different background, and some people’s backgrounds are less than perfect. Often, a person may have a black mark on their record from their youth, but they are very different people today.

Essentially, if DS investigators have any doubt concerning someone’s background, the investigators will try to make a decision that is in favor of national security, and it could mean the person is denied security clearance. Sometimes these negative decisions are not fair and it’s necessary to file an appeal.

If your security clearance was denied because of something in your past, we urge you to contact our national security clearance lawyers for professional assistance – we are on your side and here to help!