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Philadelphia and Washington DC Security Clearance Blog

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.

Kushner’s clearance reinstatement highlights procedure

According to NBC News, more than 700 people had their security clearances revoked in 2017. Although almost two people have their security clearances revoked every day, their stories rarely make headlines. That changed this year when son-in-law and Special Advisor to the President Jared Kushner had his top-secret security clearance revoked by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Kushner’s clearance was recently reinstated after a closer investigation into his foreign contacts. Before his clearance was revoked, he had been working on a temporary authorization. After lacking access to top secret information for three months, his clearance is now valid for five years. Kushner’s case is worth highlighting because it shows the importance of disclosure and procedure when applying for a security clearance. It also brought on a new law related to security clearances that could benefit everyone trying to apply.

Appealing a security clearance denial

Numerous jobs require Pennsylvania residents to handle sensitive or classified information either in a position with the federal government or in a position with a federal contractor. Many of those positions require a security clearance. For those who receive a letter from the Department of Defense denying such a clearance, it may help to know that it may be possible to appeal that decision.

In many instances, a statement of reason accompanies a denial letter. It provides the reasons why the DOD decided not to grant an individual a clearance. Sometimes, the reasons for the denial provide a reason for an appeal. It may be possible to clear up any misunderstandings or inaccuracies through an appeal.

Reporting requirements for security clearances has changed

As Pennsylvania residents live their lives, the potential is always there to make mistakes. For those with security clearances, those mistakes could possibly affect whether they can do their jobs. Up to this point, background checks only took place at certain intervals, but that recently changed.

For those with secret clearances, a background investigation used to be conducted every 10 years, and for those with top secret clearances, one was done only every five years. This still occurs, but now, the Department of Defense recently decided that clearances should be evaluated on a continuous basis through a new Continuous Evaluation Program. This means that Pennsylvania residents with clearances now need to report any issues that could affect them when they occur.

The different levels of security clearances

A large number of federal jobs require employees to handle sensitive information. This means that they will need to obtain security clearances in order to perform their job duties whether they work here in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. More often than not, a job description will dictate the level of clearance an individual applicant will need.

Government employees with a confidential security clearance see information that could harm national security if revealed. Those with secret level clearances have significantly more access to such information. If this information is disclosed, it could result in serious harm to national security since people with this clearance may have access to information regarding covert employees, people that covert employees are affiliated with and communications with foreign governments.

How security clearances and military justice intersect

No matter what branch of the U.S. Armed Forces you serve in, your military occupational specialty code or Air Force specialty code probably puts you in a position to be around, use and protect classified information. In fact, most military occupations require a minimum clearance in order to do your job. You may want to understand how security clearances and military justice intersect since even being falsely accused of wrongdoing could jeopardize your clearance and your military career whether you serve here in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

Your status in the military may not change depending on the circumstances, but if you can no longer hold a security clearance because of what happened, you could end up losing your job and your career. You may think you can shrug off a minor administrative punishment without experiencing any backlash, but you may be wrong. Depending on your clearance level, even being under investigation can cost you, even if you do not end up meeting with some form of disciplinary action or punishment.

Is the security clearance process broken?

Although the system is designed to protect national security, it’s an open secret that the process of obtaining a security clearance is difficult to understand. While some people are approved quickly, others with similar backgrounds are caught in clearance limbo for months without explanation. Why is the system like this and how could it improve?

Security clearance system deemed broken

Obtaining help with security clearances and appeals

Job hunting can be a stressful and frustrating process. When you receive an offer for a position you want, you may want to breathe a sigh of relief. However, if that job is with the federal government, you may still have yet another step to complete before the job is truly yours if your position requires a security clearance. Even if you feel you have lived a law-abiding and boring life, you may be nervous about the process. You may want to take the same step as other Pennsylvania residents before you who obtained help with their security clearances and appeals so that they could begin their careers in public service.

Since your position may require you to access classified information, the government wants to ensure that you have the appropriate character, morals and trustworthiness. You must also have the ability to be discreet and keep national secrets. In order to determine this, the government begins a background check that delves into your life up to this point. 

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