5 Tips For Employees Facing Security Clearance Issues

The following are 5 easy tips for federal employees and government contractors to consider when they face potential problem areas in the processing of their security clearances. Usually, an applicant first discovers a potential problem when they begin to review the principal form used to apply for such clearances, the SF-86 / e-QIP. Quite often the issue arises from a review of a question that cannot be answered with a clear “no.” (example: Have you been arrested in the past 7 years?).

Some quick tips for a clearance applicant include the following:

1. Be Honest: This is one of the most basic and important tips. It is often not the underlying issue that results in a security clearance denial (example: an arrest for driving under the influence), but rather when the clearance applicant is not truthful about the incident. It is a lot easier for an attorney to mitigate security clearance concerns involving an arrest, than it is to defend against an allegation that an individual was not honest in their initial application.

2. Advance Preparation for Security Clearance Problem Areas: If an individual is aware that there could potentially be a security clearance problem areas in their application they should plan in advance how they will respond to questions about the issue. This can even include obtaining documentation regarding a potential problem area in advance to mitigate the security concern early. The individual should be prepared, in advance, to address any problem areas instead of attempting to do so at the last minute.

3. Take Time to Properly Complete the Application: We often see a number of problems and even denials of security clearance applications where a federal employee or government contractor did not take enough time to read and answer all of the questions carefully. This is critical. In some cases, if an applicant does not take the time to read the question and answers “no” when they should answer “yes” the investigator could assume that individual was attempting to hide information from them. It pays to carefully complete the security clearance application.

4. Prepare for the Clearance Interview: If an individual knows that there is a good chance that problem areas exist in a security clearance application, the person should expect to be asked about the areas in advance by the investigator that is assigned. These interviews can vary from an hour to several hours depending on whether security concerns exist. Preparation (and practice) for the interview can help iron out any problem areas in advance and will provide confidence to the applicant when the time comes to meet with the investigator and to explain their responses to the problem areas.

5. Get Legal Advice Early: An individual has the best chance of resolving clearance problem areas when they get legal advice early when a suspected problem area exists, instead of waiting. Doing so also tends to cost less than trying to rectify a problem later in the process after a denial has been issued. It is our experience that some security clearance problems that we see which could have been resolved early (but were not) require significant efforts to reverse later in the process.

There are many considerations for a federal employee or government contractor when potential problems arise in the security clearance process, but I hope that these 5 tips are helpful. Each case varies so it is important to discuss any individual cases with a knowledgeable lawyer familiar with security clearance law. Please be advised that the information in this article is strictly for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.