The answer to this question, like most things in life, is maybe.  This is how I usually see this particular situation arise in my law practice:  Someone has held a public trust or secret clearance for a number of years. His or her work has been exemplary and, now, either their current organization (government or private contractor) wants to promote them to a job that requires a top-secret (TS) clearance which may include TS-SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) or TS-SAP (Special Access Program).  Alternatively, someone may be recruited to another job or employer that requires a TS level clearance for that specific position. The first scenario, if there are any underlying concerns, is a little less risky if the individual is still working with the same employer while being vetted and investigated for a TS clearance. The second scenario, where someone actually leaves his or her initial job and there are underlying concerns about a TS clearance, can be more problematic. There are nuanced issues here beyond the scope of this blog post but I wanted my readers to be aware that I think there is a difference here and the approach to taking a new job with a new employer can be riskier than one might think.  It is certainly worthy of detailed consideration before deciding to leave your current employer and moving to a new job that requires an upgrade of your clearance if you have any concerning background issues at all.  

To review, right now under the current system, a secret clearance is reviewed and renewed and a new SF 86 form must be completed through e-QIP every 10 years.  For a top-secret clearance, a new SF 86 form must be completed through e-QIP every 5 years.  This assumes there have been no intervening incidents of any type that would concern the government in the meantime.  Of course, if something has come up in this intervening period under the listed concerns the government has expressed, to include financial considerations, drug involvement, alcohol consumption, personal conduct, criminal conduct, sexual behavior, foreign influence, foreign preference, misuse of information technology and security violations, a new SF 86 will be required to be completed and submitted to the Central Adjudication Facility (CAF).  Beyond that, the security clearance program is predicated on expected self-reporting of issues that may fall within the guidelines above.  This concept and expectation is probably as important as the “concerning” behavior itself if someone does not “self-report” issues that can be of a concern to the government.  The most common types of issues that I see that come up while someone is holding a security clearance are financial issues to include delinquent debts, lawsuits, repossessions, foreclosures and bankruptcy, alcohol issues including DUIs, and illegal drug issues either while holding a clearance or before a clearance was granted.    

A couple of thoughts here that are very important, regardless of whether you are applying for an initial clearance or having your clearance upgraded to a TS.

If you have concerns, DO NOT discuss these concerns with anyone!  Talk to a lawyer where the attorney-client privilege applies.  This is the client’s privilege meaning the attorney cannot reveal the substance of any conversation unless the client directs the attorney to do so.  Conversely, some people feel the need to bare their soul to either their supervisor, human resources, facility security officer (FSO) or their superivisory chain of command.   DO NOT DO THIS!  All of these individuals will be requried to report your concerns  up the chain of command to include, ultimately, the CAF so you will not do yourself any favors here.  Note that I am NOT saying that you do not have to self-report issues that may concern the government under the security clearance guidelines.  There are, however, specific ways that you can present and disclose information to select personnel that give your security clearance the best possible chance of being granted and/or upgraded to a TS.  

Before you apply for an initial security clearance or put in for a an upgrade of your clearance to a TS, IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS AT ALL, please take a breath and pause everything.  Again, to reiterate, do not talk to anyone about your concerns. I am able to consult and advise on security clearance cases nationwide. Before you even contact me, though, I recommend that you review these blog posts so that you can figure out solutions and plans for your own unique situation.  You can see all of my blog posts at this link at our website and here are some of the most viewed ones:

As an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama, Illinois, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and a number of federal courts to include the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, I represent security clearance clients throughout the entire United States and the world.  I can help anyone who has any type of security clearance issue, concern, or potential denial and revocation regardless of where you live or work. 

If you would like to contact me to discuss your situation, please feel free to email me by clicking here

You can also call me at any of my office locations:

Huntsville, Alabama: (256)713-0221

Chicago, Illinois: (312)796-0163

Nashville, Tennessee: (615)-590-3478

Washington, D.C.  (202)851-2919        

If you have received a Statement of Reasons (SOR) to revoke or deny your security clearance from your Facility Security Officer (FSO), please feel free to contact me anytime (day, night or weekends) to discuss.   Likewise, if you need to answer your SF 86 and have concerns about some of the questions and your proposed answers, please contact me immediately as well. If you have any worries or concerns or if your clearance looks like it will be denied or revoked, I find it to be most helpful if I am involved in the security clearance process as early as possible. Time is usually of the essence with security clearance issues and I can be available immediately to help you.   

Again, the process for getting or upgrading a security clearance to a TS or fighting a denial or revocation of a clearance is exacting and demanding.  You will live with each and every SF 86 you ever fill out during your entire professional life where a clearance, including public trust/CAC is requried.  The instructions on the SF 86 say as much. As a result, make sure that you pause and do everything in your power to have your situation, whatever it is, presented in the cleanest and best possible light for you under the circumstances.  Please reach out to me for help if you are concerned about your situation.

Ron Sykstus
Written by Ron Sykstus

Ron Sykstus is a Managing Partner of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a Juris Doctorate from the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Ron has served in numerous positions throughout the U.S. Army and now utilizes his expertise in the areas of VA issues, security clearances, military law, and bankruptcy to assist his clients when they need it most. Read his full bio here.

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