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‘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, 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.

The 2018 numbers

The numbers are only from the Department of Defense and not from any of the intelligence agencies, the departments of State or Energy, or any other government agency.

  • Guideline A: Allegiance to the U.S. – 0
  • Guideline B: Foreign influence – 234
  • Guideline C: Foreign preference – 46
  • Guideline D: Sexual behavior – 30
  • Guideline E: Personal conduct – 501
  • Guideline F: Financial considerations – 1,224
  • Guideline G: Alcohol consumption – 108
  • Guideline H: Drug involvement – 168
  • Guideline I: Psychological conditions – 4
  • Guideline J: Criminal conduct – 144
  • Guideline K: Handline protected information – 25
  • Guideline L: Outside activities – 0
  • Guideline M: Use of IT systems – 18

The guidelines

The guidelines were written more than 20 years ago and were most recently updated by the Trump administration in 2016. They have nuances and complications, but in general they are:

Allegiance to the United States: Security clearance can be denied if the applicant was involved with any act of sabotage, espionage, or treason against the U.S. or sympathized with any person or organization that sought to do so;

Foreign influence: This is in effect if the applicant had business dealings with a foreign contact that could be used to manipulate the applicant;

Foreign preference: This is used when the applicant acts in such a way that indicates preference for a foreign country over the U.S.;

Sexual behavior: This involves behavior that is illegal, shows a lack of judgement or could make the applicant the subject of undue influence;

Personal conduct: A security clearance can be denied of the applicant lied, was unwilling to comply with rules or used questionable judgement;

Financial considerations: Failure to live within one’s means or satisfy debts may indicate a lack of judgement, while unexplained affluence could indicate criminal activity;

Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption leads to exercise of questionable judgement;

Drug use: Like alcohol consumption, use of illegal drugs or drugs other than the way they were prescribed indicates questionable judgement;

Psychological conditions: This occurs when a qualified mental health professional offers an opinion that the applicant’s mental state might impair judgement, reliability or trustworthiness;

Criminal conduct: Criminal activity calls into doubt the applicant’s ability to follow rules and laws;

Handling protected information: Previous lack of ability to handle protected information is a red flag;

Outside activities: Outside employment by a foreign government, individual, or organization could pose a conflict to the applicant’s security responsibilities;

Use of information technology: Hacking, unauthorized use or lax security practices all call into question the applicant’s ability to properly protect sensitive information.

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