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Philadelphia and Washington DC Security Clearance Blog

Protecting a security clearance when separating from the military

Inevitably everyone leaves military service. If a Pennsylvania military member with a security clearance intends to enter the civilian job market after separating from the military, it may be a good idea to make sure the clearance remains intact prior to leaving. That clearance could turn out to be the deciding factor in whether a particular candidate obtains a desired position.

Even with all of the changes happening when it comes to security clearances, not everyone keeps track of when their clearance expires. Anyone reaching a separation date needs to determine whether his or her clearance is still active, or at least current. Despite the approximately 700,000-application backlog, those with current and active statuses retain priority over those with expired or new clearances.

Going into the private sector? Keep that security clearance

Ending a military career or leaving a government job for the private sector? It may be advantageous to make sure to leave with a security clearance. Many civilian companies give preferential treatment to applicants who have active security clearances, which -- right or wrong -- make some Pennsylvania residents more valuable to the private sector than others when applying for jobs.

Why? In the simplest terms, it costs time and money to obtain a security clearance. Remembering when a Pennsylvania resident first obtained a security clearance, he or she may recall that it took some time for it to come through.

Answering some questions about security clearances

Working for the federal government often involves hearing, seeing and knowing about certain matters sensitive to the defense of this country. For those employees, including many from Pennsylvania, security clearances are essential in order to be trusted with the type of information that could jeopardize the safety of this country. Recent news stories about the revocation of clearances by the current administration have raised questions for some people.

In order to obtain a security clearance, applicants must go through a rigorous background check that delves into nearly every aspect of a person's life. Nothing is private during these investigations and everything is under scrutiny. Receiving a clearance is a privilege, and keeping it requires diligence, integrity and the ability to keep classified information confidential. Of course, people make mistakes, and fortunately, those mistakes do not have to mean revocation.

Defense funding bill includes warning re security clearances

Pennsylvania residents who work for the federal government may have heard about the sex scandals occurring in the military in the last few years. Many people believe the buck stops at the Pentagon, and Congress agrees. The new defense funding bill includes a warning that those facing allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct could lose their security clearances regardless of rank or position in the Pentagon.

It does not matter whether the individual involved in the sex scandal is a general, high-ranking civilian or admiral. The Pentagon will conduct an investigation to determine whether the revocation of a security clearance is appropriate and warranted. The measure has already made it through the House and Senate. It now only requires the signature of the President.

Common reasons for the denial of a security clearance

It can be difficult for a Pennsylvania resident to know how a particular piece of information about him or her will be perceived. When it comes to obtaining a security clearance, that individual could be left second-guessing every action or potential indiscretion in his or her past. Numerous issues could cause the denial of a clearance, but some appear more often than others.

For instance, Pennsylvania residents may think that personal conduct would be the number one reason for a security clearance denial, but they would be wrong. In 2017, the most often cited reason for a denial was due to financial considerations, with 1,497 denials for this purpose. Personal conduct ran a distant second with only 408 denials. After that, the disparity between reasons for a denial become much smaller.

Security clearances now affecting immigrant military recruits

According to the National Immigration Forum, as many as 5,000 immigrants join the military every year. Many jobs in the military require servicemembers to have some level of security clearance. Due to the rigorous requirements presented by the military to obtain a security clearance, many immigrants are subject to extra scrutiny in this process.

However, new obstacles to completing background checks are having consequences for immigrant troops. In July, an unspecified number of Army recruits were discharged from the service because the Department of Defense could not complete their background checks.

Uncertainty abounds with the security clearance process changes

Periodically, the federal government announces changes in procedures designed to make processes faster and more efficient. One of the recent announcements concerned security clearances. The Department of Defense will be taking over the background investigation function from the Office of Personnel Management. Like many other people throughout the country, many Pennsylvania residents may be wondering how and when that transition will take place.

The DOD has said that it will eliminate approximately 90 percent of the field leads. This would reduce the need for certain personnel and time, in theory. Other people wonder whether this will compromise security since some people may receive clearances they would not have otherwise received had more field leads been followed.

Timing is crucial in the security clearance application process

Working for the federal government or a government contractor can provide a lucrative and satisfying career. However, for many Pennsylvania residents, that means being able to obtain a security clearance. Getting through the application process can cause trepidation, stress and anxiety, especially since they know that their employment could be at stake.

The government may make it seem like the process is no big deal. An applicant fills out an application, a background investigation is done and any information he or she provides is reviewed. Once that process is complete, a clearance is granted. Most people realize that is an oversimplification of the process. What information an applicant provides and when could make a difference as well.

Can a security clearance be affected by debt?

The simple answer to that question is, yes. When receiving a security clearance, an individual's financial background absolutely plays a role in whether one is granted or denied. However, it is not just what a Pennsylvania resident does prior to receiving a clearance that makes a difference. As a service member or someone else working in a position with access to classified information moves forward, how debt obligations are handled could affect whether he or she gets to keep that clearance.

Under Guideline F of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, having financial issues leaves an individual open to questions regarding whether he or she can be trusted with sensitive information. According to one source, financial issues serve as the top reason why individuals never get or lose a security clearance. For instance, the military expects soldiers to live within their means and meet their debt obligations.

More changes are coming for security clearances

Instead of the Office of Personnel Management, the Pentagon will now conduct background checks and investigations regarding Pentagon and Department of Defense employees (both military and civilian). The goal of this move is to allow OPM to handle the backlogged requests for security clearances, which at present includes applications from some 700,000 people. Approximately 500,000 of those affect Defense Department employees, and the odds are that some may be here in Pennsylvania.

Approximately 3.6 million people work for the Pentagon, and keeping up with their security clearances has obviously helped cause the current backlog. Many people see the current system as flawed, which may be another reason for this move. This may also take some of the pressure off when it comes to changing the reporting requirements discussed in our blog post on May 8, 2018.

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