Obtaining a national security clearance is an important part of many military occupational specialities and federal service jobs. Whether you are a member of the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or United States Army, you will need a national security clearance to undergo a screening process and obtain a background check.

The screening process for national security clearance is lengthy. As an applicant, you will be required to provide information regarding your former spouses, former colleagues, old home addresses that have been long forgotten, home loans, vehicle ownership, medical bills, other debts, as well as other highly detailed personal data.

When it comes to national security clearance, there are many misconceptions about the process. Applicants should be wary of security clearance blogs and other publications that may not be entirely accurate. Unfortunately, far too many applicants learn the hard way of these inaccuracies.

The Truth About Automatic Disqualifiers

A common question national security clearance applicants have is whether an automatic disqualifier exists. Many believe that the ongoing use of an illegal substance is one matter that can be considered an automatic disqualifier, and usually reference the Bond Amendment of 2008 to base this claim. The amendment includes certain vital areas that can interfere with a clearance screening, such as criminal convictions that lead to a prison sentence of one year or more, “criminal incompetence”, receiving a dishonorable discharge, and having a drug addiction.

In reality, many of these so-called “automatic disqualifiers” are innuendos. In most cases, those who come across a roadblock when applying for a national security clearance can find themselves needing to provide additional information for the screening. Any issue raised by application reviewers will generally require further examination, and not render automatic disqualification as it is oftentimes assumed.

The Levels of National Security Clearance

The three levels of national security clearance levels are: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret.

In any of the aforementioned security clearance levels, granted clearance can allow a military member to access classified matters at the level provided or below. The highest clearance a service member can obtain is Top Secret, which will require a more intensive background check and screening process. Although much of the same information will be gathered initially, the scrutiny on the information gathered will be higher as opposed to the information obtained for someone applying for a Confidential position.

This should not imply that the requirements for any national security clearance other than Top Secret will be more lax. Instead, the areas that are not as carefully analyzed at the Confidential level can require further corroborative documentation when seeking the highest national security clearance.

Any assumptions and misconceptions about the screening process for security clearance can be problematic, but it can also lead to a security clearance denial. Whether you are applying for the lowest clearance or the highest national security clearance attainable, you will need to consider the following.

  • Security Clearance Approvals – Upon receiving clearance, particularly a high level of clearance, an occasional renewal of the clearance will be required. Depending on the level of clearance previously obtained, a full background check may be required again. With every renewal process, it is important to know that there will also be a potential for a clearance denial when there are newfound issues with one’s personal behaviors or other matters.
  • Issues That Can Slow Down the Process – Whether it is an initial screening or a follow-up background check, a delay in the process can occur. For example, badly completed forms, incomplete forms, applications that lack fingerprints or have poorly collected prints can become a problem for applicants. Any area that requires further investigation can ultimately result in a slower national security clearance approval.

Areas of Concern When Applying for National Security Clearance

When undergoing a security clearance screening, the reviewing agency will investigate the following National Security Adjudicative Guidelines: National Allegiance, Potential of Foreign Influence, Foreign Preferences, Personal Conduct, Sexual Behavior, Alcohol Consumption, Financial Considerations, Criminal Conduct, Psychological Conditions, Drug Involvement, Outside Activities, Use of Information Technology Systems, and The Handling of Protected Information.

Generally, the agency executing the screening process will investigate areas of the applicant’s life that could potentially cause a conflict of interest or would otherwise place the applicant in a position of having to choose between loyalty to the nation or a treasonous act. For the Department of Defense, an applicant’s background can reveal patterns of untrustworthy behavior. When a person shows patterns of unreliability, questions arise whether the individual can be trusted with sensitive classified information.

Obtain the Legal Support of a Reputable National Security Clearance Attorney

As diligent and difficult as a national security clearance screening process can be, securing clearance is the ultimate sign of trust from the federal government and it is an absolute necessity when seeking certain jobs. Once national security clearance is obtained, holders are required to maintain their clearance through a continuous evaluation. Unfortunately, this process does not necessarily get any easier, even if clearance has been obtained before. For some re-applicants, the renewal process can be just as challenging or even more difficult than the initial application.

If you are seeking to apply for a national security clearance or are going through the renewal process, it is important that you carefully complete the application. Many applications can be rejected for minor issues, such as missing dates and signatures. If a security clearance denial has been received, it is important to act quickly and seek the legal support of a skilled national security attorney. As an applicant, you have the opportunity to challenge the decision and submit corroborative information that can help resolve the issues raised against your application. Whether you are just starting to fill out your application or have received a clearance denial, speak to a well-versed attorney who can guide you through the difficult process.

Being triumphant in a national security clearance appeal will require proficient legal representation. With many years of experience, the National Security Law Firm is adequately prepared to provide exceptional legal counsel throughout the entire national security clearance application and possible appeals process. If you have received a clearance denial or revocation, consider obtaining the legal support of the National Security Law Firm today.

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Brett O'Brien Law, LLC
Our attorneys specialize in security clearance appeals. They have dedicated their careers to learning the entire security clearance process from start to finish. They started by working for the federal government before entering private practice. Their extensive experience working for the federal government includes over eight years advising clients on revoking and suspending an employee’s security clearance, reporting derogatory information, representing clients in their response to a Statement of Reasons (SOR), and serving in a joint duty assignment for the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). Their work at the DOHA allowed them to learn the inner-workings of the Agency responsible for representing the Department of Defense Central Adjudicative Facility (DoD CAF). All of these experiences provide our attorneys a unique advantage over other attorneys and firms who practice in the security clearance niche.