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Philadelphia and Washington DC Security Clearance Blog

Don't believe everything you read about security clearances

Like people all across the country, Pennsylvania residents often turn to the internet when researching certain topics. While this can yield some useful information, many results should be taken with a grain of salt. This includes any answers to questions regarding security clearances that applicants may have.

For instance, an internet search about seeking out mental health counseling could cause an applicant to believe it would not be a good idea. Apparently, some search results regarding this issue say that admitting to this type of counseling could lead to an immediate denial of a security clearance. In most cases, it does not prevent someone from receiving a clearance. On the other hand, failing to seek help for a mental health condition could.

Honesty is the best policy in the security clearance process

Just about everyone has at least one minor indiscretion in their past. When it comes to obtaining a security clearance, a Pennsylvania applicant may believe that omitting that fact from the application could give him or her a better chance at receiving a clearance. Unfortunately, this strategy could cost such an individual a security clearance.

Under Guideline E: Personal Conduct, omissions are as good as lies. Failing to include a piece of potentially damaging information would be cause for denial of a security clearance. It may not even be the information omitted that causes the denial.

‘Financial considerations’ tops security clearance denials

A recent review of the 2018 hearings before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals shows the Department of Defense denied 1,844 security clearances last year. The top reason for denial continues to be the applicant’s financial issues.

The list, compiled by clearancejobs.com, found that of the 13 general categories used to decline security clearances, financial considerations continued to lead the group by a wide margin. In 2018, 1,224 applications were denied for this reason. The next highest number was for personal conduct with 501 denials.

Security clearances, financial issues and the government shutdown

It is estimated that approximately 800,000 people across the country, surely including many living here in Pennsylvania, are affected by the partial government shutdown. These individuals could sustain significant financial issues as a result the longer it goes on. For those with security clearances, it could also jeopardize their livelihood when they attempt to return to work.

One of the primary reasons for the denial, suspension or revocation of security clearances is monetary problems. Obviously, not getting paid for a significant amount of time will cause such issues. A sample letter that the affected workers could send to their creditors regarding the shutdown was sent out by the Office of Personnel Management in an attempt to help them through this crisis. Affected individuals are also encouraged to contact their creditors to discuss the situation and see what arrangements could be made since once the shutdown is over, payments will go out, including the missed paychecks.

What are security clearances worth to Pennsylvania residents?

When competition for certain job positions gets fierce, any advantage a Pennsylvania resident has could make the difference between getting the job and not getting it. An active security clearance could provide a significant advantage when it comes to having a leg up in the hiring process. Moreover, people with security clearances could potentially find higher paying positions as well.

Another issue facing Pennsylvania security clearance holders is not losing the designation. Any number of issues could lead to potentially losing a clearance, which in some arenas might as well be considered a firing. It is possible that the agency or federal contractor for which an individual works would find another position for him or her after losing the privilege of working with classified material, but that is not always the case.

Can some personal misconduct threaten a security clearance?

Everyone makes mistakes. However, for a Pennsylvania resident who holds a security clearance, certain errors in judgment could have embarrassing and costly consequences. For instance, an "innocent" encounter on the internet could lead to someone attempting to compromise such an individual.

Back in 2016, a phenomenon called "sextortion" received attention through an article in the Military Times. For instance, an online encounter that involves the exchange of nude photographs could result in a blackmail scheme. The individual with a security clearance may recognize that this type of personal misconduct could have serious ramifications when it comes to keeping that clearance and/or his or her job.

What kind of security clearances are there?

Pennsylvania residents who apply for jobs with the federal government could end up working with sensitive information. In order to ensure that those applicants can be trusted with that information, the government requires them to apply for and obtain security clearances. The time, money and thoroughness required during the process depends on the type of security clearance required for the position.

Obviously, the more sensitive the information an applicant will see, the higher the clearance required, which means more time, cost and investigation. Three levels of security clearance exist. The first, called confidential, would cause some harm to national security if an individual revealed sensitive information. The second, called secret, would seriously harm the security of the country if an individual revealed sensitive information. The third, called top secret, would lead to grave harm to national security if sensitive information was revealed.

Will a 'checkered past' keep you from a security clearance?

If you are like many other Philadelphia residents, you may not have made the best decisions in your formative years. Perhaps you have a "checkered past," which could jeopardize your ability to obtain a security clearance. Even if your records were expunged, that may not prevent the government from knowing about it. 

Were you caught drinking underage? Do you have a DUI on your record? Maybe during your college days you experimented with drugs, but it never went any further than that. Even though you consider these and other transgressions youthful mistakes, the government may not see it that way. When considering whether to grant you a security clearance, issues such as these could get in the way, which means that you may not get the job you want.

Whistleblower stripped of security clearance over military app

Anthony Kim noticed a problem with the Navy's tactical mapping apps known as KILSWITCH and APASS. The apps were designed for use in combat, but soldiers were downloading them to personal devices that lacked proper encryption. This opened the apps to a hacking risk. Kim, a civilian program analyst, knew this problem posed a very real danger in combat. He works for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. He is a major with 28 years of military service. He was a Navy pilot and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), someone who orders combat airstrikes.   

Security clearance issues: People don't work in the same job now

Unlike decades ago, people across the country, including many here in Pennsylvania, tend not to remain in one job for 20 to 30 years anymore. Instead, they move around for many reasons such as the need for a new challenge, boredom or a change in direction in life. In any case, having a security clearance under these circumstances can get dicey since each new position may require a "new" clearance. Many people are now saying that it would just be easier for a security clearance to be attached to a person instead of a job.

Of course, people would still only receive a security clearance the first time when applying for a position that requires one. Thereafter, it would belong to them unless or until someone determines that it needs to be taken away. This way, if an individual transfers between governmental agencies or private contractors who work with the government, he or she would already have a clearance.

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