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What is the Impact of Losing Your Security Clearance on Your Federal Employment Job?

For most federal employees, obtaining and maintaining a security clearance is a must. As such, it’s common for many federal employees to feel some form of anxiety when it comes to their clearance, since if it were to be revoked or denied, it would most likely mean a loss of employment as well.

As such, it’s important to know what the most common concerns are that could lead to you losing your security clearance and what to do if you feel you are at risk of losing your clearance.

Most Common Ways to Lose Your Security Clearance

While security clearances can be difficult to obtain and/or maintain, there are many disqualifying factors that, if left unmitigated, can cause a revocation or denial of a security clearance. The Adjudication Guidelines list 13 grounds for revocation, ranging from foreign influence to security violations. A few of the most common concerns for the revocation or denial of a security clearance are:

  1. Marijuana and Other Drug Use and Alcohol Consumption: Drug and alcohol use continues to be the most common reason for security clearance revocations and denials. The main concern with excessive or improper drug involvement is that it can raise questions regarding an individual’s willingness or ability to protect classified information.
  2. Criminal Conduct: While seemingly obvious, any arrest, no matter how big or small, could lead to your losing your security clearance. The main concern raised by having a history or pattern of criminal behavior is that it can create doubt about a person’s judgment, reliability, and trustworthiness.
  3. Maintaining Close Ties to Foreign Contacts: When evaluating someone for security clearance, the government is concerned that any relationship with foreign nationals may leave the individual vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or pressure as well as their ability to be manipulated or induced to divulge sensitive national security information.
  4. Financial Concerns or Gambling Addictions: While almost all security clearance candidates hold debt in one form or another, the government scrutinizes the cause and amount of your debt as well as your payment history. Additionally, individuals who are financially overextended are at a higher risk of engaging in illegal acts to generate funds.
  5. Misuse of IT Systems: Under Guideline M, the government may have security concerns related to the misuse of information technology systems as it tends to show an inability in the holder’s ability to follow laws, rules, and regulations and thus creates a heightened risk of coercion, exploitation, or duress.

As previously stated, there are many more concerns that could lead to the revocation or denial of a security clearance, but a good first step in maintaining your clearance is knowing what could cause you to lose it.

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How Long Does a Security Clearance Last?

Generally, as long as you’re employed by a cleared contractor or government agency and you continue to need access to classified information, your security clearance will remain active, provided you comply with periodic reinvestigation requirements.

If concerns arise during the time you have access to classified information, your federal employer or an investigative agency may conduct a review outside the normal periodic reinvestigation process to determine whether you should still be eligible for access to classified information. If the concerns are serious enough, your access to the classified information may be suspended pending resolution of the review.

When you permanently leave the position for which the security clearance was granted, your security clearance is terminated. If you no longer require access to classified information but you continue to be employed by the same cleared contractor or agency, you can have your clearance administratively downgraded or withdrawn until you need access again, so long as your security clearance investigation has not gone out of date.

What Should You Do if You Have Lost Your Security Clearance?

If your clearance has been denied or revoked (whether officially or with intent), there are options to fight to retain or obtain the clearance. While the options to fight back will depend on your specific situation, many federal employees are able to appeal their revocations successfully. Whether that is through submitting a written rebuttal to a Statement of Reasons (SOR) or Letter of Intent (LOI), attending a hearing with the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) for the majority of DOD federal employees, or pursuing other appropriate administrative channels depending on the government agency, having your security clearance revoked doesn’t automatically mean the end of your federal employment career.

There are many different arguments you can mount to try and fight against a revocation or denial, from lack of evidence by the government to providing proper mitigation for any security concerns. Having a compelling mitigating argument in light of the facts and circumstances of your individual case is the best way to find success and avoid a revocation or denial.

It’s Your Job to Fight for Your Clearance; Go Informed

While it’s our hope that you won’t have to face a revocation or denial of your security clearance, one can never be too cavalier since one small oversight can lead to your career and hard work being in jeopardy. Nobody is perfect. However, if you do find yourself in this position, knowing how best to defend yourself and mitigate the government’s concerns is paramount.

If you have additional questions about the impact of losing your clearance on your federal career or how to fight against a denial or revocation, our team of experienced attorneys is ready to assist you today.

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