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What to know about security clearances, and how you might lose one

On Behalf of | Nov 19, 2021 | Military Law

No matter your branch of the armed forces, many defense roles require you to procure a security clearance to take them on. Doing so isn’t a fast or easy process. You have to provide information about your finances, former jobs and colleagues, relatives to include any ex-spouses, long-forgotten addresses and other details to secure it.

You may wonder if any factors automatically disqualify you from obtaining or retaining a security clearance. There are quite a few. 

Different tiers of security clearances

Various tiers of security clearances exist, each of which gives you access to a higher level of classified information. These levels include:

  • Top Secret
  • Secret
  • Confidential

Top secret is the highest level security clearance. Results from your credit or background check may limit which level of clearance you’re given.

Your secret level security clearance is renewable at least every five years. Some departments may require more frequent renewals. The higher the level the clearance, the more likely it is that you’ll have to undergo an entire background check again. This is especially the case if you spend significant time overseas after procuring your security clearance.

Situations that could disqualify you from obtaining a security clearance

Some factors that may automatically disqualify you from obtaining a security clearance or cause you to lose an existing one include:

  • Receiving a dishonorable discharge
  • Proof that you have substance abuse issues
  • A criminal conviction resulting in a prison term of a year or more
  • Recurring personal conduct or financial issues
  • Allegiance to a foreign country
  • Psychological concerns
  • Concerns about your prior use of information technology

A lack of U.S. citizenship is generally an automatic disqualifier for a security clearance.

Reinstatement or appeals of denied security clearances

You may be able to have your security clearance reinstated. There must not be any significant changes in the petitioner’s situation since the last investigation, no break in service for the two years prior, and the clearance level must be at or below what it was before to qualify.

You also have an option to appeal a denied clearance by addressing the derogatory information used in rendering the revoking decision with the hiring agency.

You want to carefully weigh how you proceed if you’ve been denied a security clearance and plan to appeal the decision.