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Honesty and Mitigation are the Keys to Obtaining a Security Clearance

Updated on December 24, 2010

Honesty and Mitigation are the Keys to Obtaining a Security Clearance

Obtaining a security clearance is very advantageous for someone seeking employment either directly with the United States government or with a company that works with the United States government on a contractual basis. From overseas contractors, to the men and women that serve our wonderful nation in the Armed Forces, obtaining a government security clearance is necessary for many of the positions available to the public.

For those seeking a security clearance, be prepared for thorough background investigation that will include an in-depth look into your employment, financial and criminal histories. So what happens if you have made mistakes in the past and your history isn’t as squeaky clean as you would like it to be? Don’t worry about it. Past mistakes are not an automatic bar from security clearance eligibility. However, how you handled those mistakes may very well be.

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth

When applying for a security clearance, you will have to fill out government form SF-86 which is the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. This questionnaire will cover nearly every aspect of your life such as residential history, relatives, financial history and of course your criminal history. The key to filling this questionnaire out is to be extremely honest in all of your responses.

If you experimented with marijuana while you were in college and it is within the time frame in question, disclose the information. If you were arrested for a DUI two years ago, give as much information about the circumstances as possible. If you got into a financial bind that led to a foreclosure or repossession, be as forthcoming with the information as possible. No matter how bad you think it is, lying about it will only make it worse and can mean an automatic denial of a security clearance.

The investigator and adjudicator know that no one is perfect but they also want to ensure that the person seeking the security clearance is honest before entrusting them with access to information that can cause grave damage to national security if it were made publicly available.

Mitigation Makes it Better

Mitigation is also extremely important when a candidate has had some occurrences of trouble or poor judgment in the past. The investigator and adjudicator will want to know what the candidate has done to fix the situation and ensure that it will not happen again in the future.

In the example of the candidate that experimented with marijuana in college, time could be a mitigating factor. How long ago did the marijuana use occur? The frequency of usage could also be a mitigating factor. Was the candidate involved in regular marijuana use or was it a one -time occurrence? The step or steps taken to ensure that a problem does not re-occur is also an important mitigating factor. For example, has the candidate completed drug counseling or similar programs in an effort to avoid drug use in the future? Even in more serious cases, mitigation can be the difference between the approval and denial of a security clearance.

Security clearances are not easy to obtain and should not be considering what is at stake. Everyone makes mistakes but how a person deals with those mistakes is what an investigator and eventually an adjudicator is going to be interested in when determining the outcome of your investigation. I am not an expert on the subject by any means but I can speak from experience. Don’t think that you can’t go for that dream job because of a few bumps in the past. Honesty and mitigation go a very long way in helping to determine the suitability of a person wanting to serve this great nation of ours.


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