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Pennsylvania residents are still waiting on security clearances

Most people assume that the wheels of government turn slowly. However, the processing of security clearances has taken far longer than anyone would have anticipated in the last few years. Many Pennsylvania residents are caught up in this backlog, but there could be good news on the horizon.

The news may not seem as promising as some depict it, but headway has been made to reduce the backlog. Around April 2018, the backlog was at around 725,000. Now, in April 2019, approximately 498,000 people remain part of the group experiencing significant delays in receiving their clearances. In about a year, the government has cleared close to 32% of those cases.

A security clearance can be invaluable in the private sector

When Pennsylvania residents separate from the military, they often begin searching for employment in the private sector. While military service already provides them with an edge, a security clearance could make them immeasurably more attractive as a candidate to government contractors. Someone who already has a clearance saves such companies the cost associated with the process.

Depending on the type of clearance a potential employer requires of a candidate, it can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to $15,000 or more. Moreover, already having a security clearance tells hiring managers that a Pennsylvania resident probably has a clean background. Since many companies now perform background checks on prospective employees, this could be just one more step to skip.

Investing in certain products can jeopardize a security clearance

With an ever growing number of states, including Pennsylvania, allowing the purchase of marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes, it may seem like now would be the time to invest in the business. Even so, marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal level. For this reason, those who have or are applying for a security clearance could find this turns out to be a bad move. 

Most people are aware of the fact that drug usage jeopardizes the receipt or retention of a security clearance, but it may come as a surprise that simply investing in the industry could do the same. Military members in particular recently received advice not to engage in this activity, even in a passive manner. Not only does it have to do with a federally illegal drug, but it also casts doubt on those whose finances are tied up marijuana through investments.

Marijuana use at center of Tesla CEO's security clearance review

More states, including Pennsylvania, have passed laws allowing medical and/or recreational marijuana use in recent years. Even so, its use remains illegal at the federal level. Using marijuana, even in a state where it is legal, could require a security clearance review, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently discovered.

During his participation in a podcast, Musk smoked marijuana. Since this drug remains illegal at the federal level, he was required to update his security clearance application for review by the Department of Defense. The businessman received a secret-level security clearance in connection with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. The company, whose daily operations fall to someone else, launches spy satellites for the U.S. military.

There are no secrets when applying for a security clearance

If you are like other Pennsylvania residents who have applied for jobs with the federal government, you may not be looking forward to going through every aspect of the applications process. Perhaps one of the most disconcerting aspects of the process is applying for a security clearance. No one likes exposing their past indiscretions, mistakes or bad decisions, but there are no secrets if you want the job.

The government will conduct an investigation into your background that gets increasingly thorough and lengthy depending on the level of clearance you need. More than likely, the investigator or investigators assigned to your application will find out all of your secrets. Knowing this, the best course of action is to face them head-on and be forthcoming about them.

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.

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