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Does an Alcohol Related Incident Prevent Me From Obtaining or Maintaining a Security Clearance?

Under Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, the government may have security concerns related to excessive alcohol consumption as it may lead to questionable judgment or criminal conduct. This can include incidents at work or away from work, and you don’t even need a diagnosis for an alcohol-related disorder for you to be disqualified from obtaining a security clearance. However, the question remains, does an alcohol-related incident prevent you from obtaining or maintaining a security clearance? The short answer is, it can if the appropriate mitigation is not pursued.

Many times, Guideline G disqualifying conditions become applicable after an alcohol-related incident occurs outside of work, such as being arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or alcohol-related incidents at work, such as reporting to work under the influence of alcohol. However, even reporting that you have engaged in excessive, habitual, or binge alcohol consumption, regardless if you were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, can raise questions about your ability to safeguard classified material and hold a security clearance.

Nonetheless, an incident as described above does not have to mean your security clearance will be revoked or denied. In many cases, taking the proper steps to establish mitigation can be enough to quell any government concerns. In the case of a DUI, or other alcohol-related criminal events, complying with all court orders, paying all fines, and disclosing any unique circumstances that led to the incident can heavily contribute to mitigating arguments. Additionally, establishing a pattern of modified consumption or complete abstinence from alcohol consumption is also a strong tool to show the government that you have learned from your past mistakes. While you may not be diagnosed with any type of alcohol use disorder, obtaining a professional opinion or even taking an alcohol use awareness course can provide substantial mitigation for these alcohol-related concerns. The bottom line is that showing evidence that you have overcome any problem and have learned from your mistakes so as you will not engage in similar conduct in the future is paramount for strong mitigation.

So regardless of whether or not you are currently facing a revocation or denial of your security clearance, it is important to stay cognizant of what Guideline G entails and that an alcohol related incident may not be the final nail in your coffin for a security clearance. However, this depends on how well you are able to mitigate the government’s concerns if you do find yourself facing similar allegations. If you cannot advocate for yourself appropriately, not only will your career be damaged, but you could also find yourself facing the revocation or denial of your security clearance.

Ryan C. Nerney, Esq. is a Senior Associate in the San Diego office of Tully Rinckey PLLC, where he focuses his practice primarily on national security law, with experience in federal employment and military matters. Ryan represents clients who have security clearance issues against agencies such as DHS, NSA, DIA, DOD, NRO, and DOE. He has represented numerous clients in security clearance revocation proceedings and has a proven record of saving clients’ jobs, as well as anticipating and resolving potential future issues with their security clearances. He can be reached at or at (619)-357-7600.

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