Security Clearance Disqualifiers

The security clearance procedure can be complex and lengthy, depending on the type of clearance you seek and the elements of your background that need to be examined. In this blog, we review the guidelines to pass a security clearance and the most common disqualifier to an application.

The Adjudicative Guidelines for Security Clearance

Many federal service jobs and military occupational specialties, among other roles, require a security clearance, which, if successful, grants an individual access to classified information. The process can be a lengthy one; you will need to provide information about old home addresses, ex-spouses or former colleagues, vehicle ownership, home loans and other debts, medical bills, and other highly detailed data.

In general, the government security clearance assessment includes any factors in a person’s life that could cause a conflict of interest and place a person in the position of having to choose between their commitment to the United States and any other compelling loyalty, according to the Department of Defense.

Every security clearance case is individually assessed using the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines to determine whether to grant or continue a person’s eligibility for a security clearance consistent with the interests of national security. The adjudicative guidelines include an examination of the following elements:

- allegiance to the United States;

- foreign influence;

- foreign preference;

- sexual behavior;

- personal conduct;

- financial considerations;

- alcohol consumption;

- drug involvement;

- psychological conditions;

- criminal conduct;

- ability to handle protected information;

- outside activities;

- use of information technology systems.

Types of Security Clearance

Be aware that there are 3 standard levels of security clearance – Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret – that you might seek to qualify for, depending on your reason for the security clearance. A Confidential clearance is the easiest to obtain and covers positions where the disclosure of classified information would cause damage to national security. A Secret clearance is granted to those who will handle a type of confidential information that would cause serious damage to national security if divulged. And, If an individual is deemed able to access classified information of the highest sensitivity, then they must pass a Top Secret clearance.

There are also 2 categories of classified information that require additional handling and access restrictions:

- Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), which includes intelligence sources, methods, and processes; and

- Special Access Programs (SAPs), which are highly sensitive projects and programs.

Why You Might Be Disqualified

Cases where an individual’s background reveals patterns of unreliable or untrustworthy behavior could hinder their security clearance, as it raises questions of whether they can be relied on and entrusted with the responsibility to work in a secure environment meant to protect classified information.

During a security clearance screening, the people doing the background check must determine if the applicant’s questionable patterns are life-long habits, the result of circumstances, or other issues. Activities related to these behaviors are also reviewed, then, such as:

- credit issues,

- debt problems, and

- hospital bills or related obligations.

One-time credit mistakes or failures could be further examined to determine whether the cause is significant or further indicative of the person’s habits. In fact, one common area that can be troublesome on a background check is financial behavior that indicates the applicant is frequently over-extended on credit, personal debt, etc. Having too much debt and not enough income creates a potential circumstance where a security clearance application can be disqualified.

Note that the presence of debt itself is not the problem; it is the patterns or life habits that involve financial irresponsibility, carelessness, or the tendency to be in a compromised position that is the disqualifier. Some popularized blogs point at drugs and alcohol as an automatic disqualifier, and while substance abuse is a factor examined during the background check, it is not the most common disqualifier. In most cases where applications are denied, it is due to financial issues. In 2017, the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals Board heard 2,054 appeals from those who were denied a security clearance following the background check, and more than 1,400 of those appeals were due to financial problems.

Some examples of common financial problems that reject a security clearance application include:

- poor credit choices over a prolonged period of time;

- theft, embezzlement, tax evasion, and other financial violations;

- recognizable patterns of unpaid debt;

- recognizable patterns of paying consistently late;

- recent acquisitions of cash or assets with no supporting documentation;

- financial trouble related to gambling or drugs.

Depending on the procedures established by the hiring entity, you may be able to appeal a rejected application and address any derogatory information the investigation gathered and correct or clarify the details. For more information, check the federal guidelines before applying for your security clearance or appealing a decision.

Seek Knowledgeable Legal Counsel For Help

If you are looking to apply for a security clearance for your job, it is important that you know what factors will be considered in your background check. One of the most common disqualifiers is financial irresponsibility, assessed through a thorough examination of your credit history and other financial payments. Contact an experienced security clearance lawyer at Claery & Hammond, LLP today for appropriate legal guidance in the application or appeals process.

Speak with our firm at Claery & Hammond, LLPtoday to discuss your case.