The security clearance application (Standard Form 86 or SF 86) contains questions concerning your history and current activities. For instance, you will be asked to list any criminal charges against you, your foreign activities, and your drug and alcohol use. The questions aim to determine whether you should be granted access to sensitive national materials. Providing complete and accurate details is crucial for moving your security clearance application forward efficiently. Because of the volume of information requested on the SF 86, the process can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, an attorney can provide advice and guidance at all stages.
What Is the Purpose of the Security Clearance Questions?
The purpose of security clearance application questions is to protect against unauthorized disclosure of national security information. The questions help determine whether an applicant is a security threat or if they can access classified information. By asking these questions, the government can ensure that only those who pose no security threat and can be trusted with sensitive data are granted security clearance.
A Range of Questions About Your Background
The SF 86, or national security questionnaire, is a lengthy document used to assess an individual's suitability for a security clearance. The SF 86 covers various topics, including employment history, drug use, financial history, and foreign contacts. The questions on the SF 86 are designed to assess an individual's honesty and candor. To obtain a security clearance, applicants must demonstrate that they can be trusted with sensitive information.
Below is a brief description of the different questions on the SF 86:
- Personal identifying information: The first question you must answer concerns your personal information. You’ll need to provide your name, date and place of birth, contact information, social security number, aliases, and passport information.
- Citizenship: You must state whether you are a U.S. citizen by birth or by being born to U.S. parents in a foreign country. You can also indicate whether you are a naturalized U.S. citizen or a non-citizen.
- Residence: You must provide the dates you lived at current and past residences and whether you owned or rented the home or if it were military housing. You must also give the contact information for anyone who knows that you lived at the residence.
- Education: You must indicate where you went to school after your 18th birthday. Additionally, you need to specify whether you have received a degree or diploma in the last 10 years.
- Employment history: In this section, you’ll list dates of employment, positions, duties, supervisors, and work locations.
- Military history: You must state whether you have ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the branch you were in, and the type of discharge you received.
- Family and associates: You must give the contact information for friends, neighbors, work colleagues, schoolmates, and relatives. You’ll also have to note how long you’ve known each.
- Marital status: This section concerns your current or former marriages or anyone you are cohabiting with. If you are married, you must state whether your spouse is foreign-born or has any aliases.
- Foreign connections: In this section, you’ll discuss any foreign national you have close and continuing contact with. You must disclose any foreign dealings, such as financial interests, business ventures, or job offers in another country. You will also have to indicate the traveling you’ve done outside the U.S.
- Psychological and emotional health: This question asks whether you have seen a mental health professional or have been declared mentally incompetent by a court.
- Criminal records: In this section, you must provide information about any brushes with the law. This includes a summons or citation to appear in court, an arrest, a criminal charge, a conviction, or a criminal sentence. You must also state whether you are on probation or parole, awaiting trial, or have a domestic violence restraining order against you.
- Drug involvement: You must disclose any illegal possession, distribution, manufacture, or use of controlled substances or drugs. Additionally, you need to indicate whether you have misused prescription drugs. You will also have to state whether you used drugs while having a security clearance or received counseling or treatment because of illegal drug use.
- Alcohol use: This section concerns alcohol use that has adversely impacted work performance, personal or professional relationships, or finances. You must state whether alcohol use led to interactions with law enforcement officials or counseling or treatment.
- Previous background investigations: You must disclose whether the U.S. or a foreign government has ever run a background check on you or issued a security clearance. You will also have to indicate whether you have ever been denied a security clearance.
- Finances: In this section, you must disclose adverse financial situations, such as filing for bankruptcy, problems due to gambling, delinquency on child support or alimony, or defaulting on a loan.
- Use of information technology systems: You must indicate whether you have ever unlawfully accessed or removed data or hardware from a computer system.
- Non-criminal legal matters: You must state whether you are or have ever been party to a civil court action.
- Associations: This question concerns memberships in terrorist groups or groups that use violence to attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.
What Can Lead to a Security Clearance Delay or Denial?
Security clearance delays or denials can occur for several reasons. Most often, it is because the applicant has inaccurate or incomplete information on their security clearance application.
The "whole-person concept" is used when reviewing an applicant's character and suitability for a security clearance, which means that not just one factor will be considered. Thus, having negative details in certain parts of your past won’t necessarily lead to an automatic denial.
Get Legal Help with Your Security Clearance Application
The process of seeking security clearance from the United States government is lengthy. Those who apply for clearance must undergo a thorough background check to protect national security information. The answers to the application questions help to determine whether an individual is authorized to access sensitive information. Therefore, applicants for clearance must take the time to answer the questions truthfully and completely.