Recently, I have seen a number of individuals who have been instructed by their facility security officer (FSO) that they need to fill out and submit a SF 86 form through the e-Qip (Electronic Questionnaire for Investigation Processing). This is all done online through the JPAS (Joint Personnel Adjudications System).
The issues that I am about to discuss relate to new employees who just started a job and are being sponsored for clearance and also long-term employees who are already working with classified material and who hold a security clearance. Either a potential incident has surfaced which requires the completion of a new SF 86 (e.g. dui, criminal charge, debt problem, etc.) or the time is ripe for either an initial clearance for a new employee or a renewal of the secret clearance (every 10 years) or a top-secret clearance (every 5 years).
When the Deadline Isn’t Met for the SF 86
For inexplicable reasons, sometimes individuals don’t meet the timetable issued by the FSO to get the SF 86 completed and submitted, which is usually 15 days from the initial notification by the FSO. As I am often told, security clearance applicants are too busy with their work to get to the form, or they are nervous and reticent about certain questions on the SF 86 and they are not exactly sure how to answer them. Also, the SF 86 may get kicked back to them to request further answers on any incomplete portions which also comes with a strict timetable for completion.
In any event, if this timetable for completion of the SF 86 is not met, then the applicant’s clearance will be flagged and denied in the JPAS system. Immediately upon that happening, in almost all cases, the applicant will be escorted from the premises and not allowed to perform his or her job. At that point, he or she won’t be able to get back to work until the situation with the clearance is resolved. The problem with that, is that it is no longer a priority for anyone to include the FSO and, generally, the employer. Plus, there is no guarantee that a person will be allowed to get back into the system to expedite their clearance. This flag and denial/revocation of a clearance could stay in place in a sort of “security clearance purgatory” for a very long time. Of all of the security clearance issues and problems that I see, this “self-made” reason should NEVER be the cause of someone having his or her clearance denied or revoked!
The Importance of Meeting the Deadline
As I stated, I am seeing this happen often enough that it bears importance to remind you to always timely and completely submit your completed SF 86 as requested. I suggest that you work on it immediately when first tasked to do it, no matter how busy you are or how arduous this form can be. If you have concerns on how to answer specific questions on the SF 86, allowing yourself more time to answer them and preparing practice answers will give you the best possible chance for security clearance success. The worst thing someone can do, besides submitting it late and having the clearance denied or revoked anyway, is to answer problem questions in a sloppy and incomplete manner, which could follow someone’s access to classified material for the rest of his or her working life.
In fact, the instructions to answer the SF 86 specifically note that the government can look at all previous SF 86’s in the past that have been completed by applicants. I have seen cases that go back 30 years, covering three secret SF 86’s is over 10 year periods each. If the answers change on the new one, as contrasted to the old ones, that is a huge problem for clearance access. I bring this up to remind people to make sure they are consistent with their answers in light of what they have answered in previous SF 86’s. If there is any doubt or concern at all, please be very mindful and considerate in your answers; make sure your stories in your past are consistent. If not, I can guarantee that you will have a clearance issue.
As the saying goes: knowledge is power! If someone has any concerns at all regarding how to complete and answer problematic questions on the SF 86, I urge them to consider all facets and ramifications of any troubling questions prior to answering the questions! I often observe problem answers that security clearance applicants have provided which could have been cleaned up on the front end and most likely prohibited them from having a problem with their clearance in the first place.
I have been helping people with all facets of their security clearance for years, to include the initial submission of the SF 86 through representation at security clearance revocation hearings. If I can be of assistance to you with any concerns or issues regarding a security clearance, please email me or call me at 256-713-0221.