Once you’re approved for security clearance, regardless of the level, you’ll have to make some lifestyle adjustments. You’ll also have to start planning ahead. If you have several phone calls with someone in Paris, you’ll have to report it. If you file for divorce, the government will learn about that too. And if you file Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy, you’ll have to disclose it, even if you want to keep it a private matter.
It’s an honor and an accomplishment to hold a security clearance, but to keep it, you have to prove that you’re trustworthy and deserving. The government has high standards for individuals who are trusted to keep its secrets. As such, here are some ways your lifestyle will change once you have clearance, regardless of which level.
How Your Behaviors Will Change
Here are 3 ways your behaviors will have to change when you have security clearance:
1. You will need to watch your credit closely: Your personal finances matter a lot when you have security clearance. When filling out the financial disclosure forms, you’ll have to be very transparent about your financial situation. You need to be accurate and detailed about everything from your credit card balances, to your mortgages, to cash gifts received, to inheritances, to child or spousal support, to investments, and so on. If you’re dishonest and something doesn’t match up with what the government finds, it’s a huge red flag. If you’re up for a periodic investigation, check your credit report and do everything possible to resolve as much negative information as you can.
2. Avoid abusing legal and illicit drugs: If you have a history of using marijuana for recreational purposes or any other controlled substance, STOP now. Beyond that, report it during the investigation and seek help. If you’re undergoing the initial investigation, don’t lie about recreational drug use. Be honest and don’t lie about your past, however tempting it may be. The key to a successful investigation and reinvestigation is to be transparent.
3. Don’t hide the truth! You’ll be asked a lot of questions during your investigation. You may be hesitant to talk about the time you got in a fight on the football field or the time you let your $1500 ambulance bill go to collections, or the time you got arrested for being drunk in public, or the time you dated a minor and her parents reported it. Whatever you do, tell the truth. Believe it or not, the investigators are more concerned about your honesty than they are about what you did in your senior year of high school.
As you hold a security clearance, you will need to be aware of how you conduct yourself. Hopefully, this advice will help you better understand what’s expected of you.