The Applicant’s Role in Security Clearance Decisions

Considering the security clearance application process and the granting decision; let’s consider the following from the adjudicator’s point of view. Each of the following nine topics can be applied to identify which mitigations would be appropriate for each of the 13 Adjudicative topics from foreign influence to computer usage. For the sake of this writing, let’s apply to drug usage specifically. The reader can expand the application to whichever adjudicative topic(s) they need to cover.

  • the frequency and recency of the conduct. Here is where the adjudicator views how often the drug use occurred and when the last time drugs was used. If enough time has passed since the last drug use (a year or more) the drug use risk could be mitigated.
  • the individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct. This again points to reasons behind the drug use. If it occurred many years previously and while the applicant was younger and the result of a few bad decisions while in school, then it could be mitigated.
  • the extent to which participation is voluntary. This extend could cover being a participant during a group experiment to actually supplying drugs to the party goers. The adjudicator will want to have a good understanding of the behavior that led to drug usage contrasted with your current potential to reengage.
  • the presence or absence of rehabilitation and other permanent behavioral changes. Completing a rehabilitation program demonstrates a motivation toward positive change. Voluntary rehabilitation and completion is a positive endeavor. Quitting rehabilitation is going to be a concern. If you attended rehabilitation, you may want to explain the circumstances to include counselors’ notes, certificates, and letters of recommendation or other artifacts that support or demonstrate a permanent change in attitude or behavior.
  • the motivation for the conduct. This is a direct request for information. The adjudicator much understand the mental attitude behind the behavior. Was the attitude cavalier, did it reflect entitlement, or was it a weak moment never to be repeated. The thought is that past motivation could reoccur if not mitigated. An applicant could provide statements from friends, co-workers, contemporaries or other influential people supporting a character change. This will help the adjudicator visualize a change in motivation or attitude.
  • the potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress. If the applicant has an attitude in favor of drug use, a feeling of entitlement to use drugs, or has a drug positive ideal, this could be a huge factor. However, statement, letters of recommendation, or completion of rehabilitation programs could prove to mitigate this potential in the eyes of the adjudicator.
  • the likelihood of continuation or recurrence. The adjudicator has to put all 8 points to the test. Once they consider the whole person concept, they’ve got to rule in favor of national security on this one. If the likelihood of recurrence or continuation exists, the clearance will be denied.
  1. the nature, extent, and seriousness of the conduct. The adjudicator would want to know what type of drugs were being used, and the amount of drugs being used at each occurrence.
  2. the circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation. This is where you can explain why you used drugs. Was it a one-time use after coercion from a peer group, or part of a religious practice? Was it a bad decision based on a drunken event or just something you wanted to do? The point is to paint a picture of the motivation behind the drug use so that later you can explain whether or not the circumstances still apply.

Regarding each of the 13 Adjudicative Criteria, the applicant should gather all information available to explain the behavior that could cause a denial of a security clearance. The information should be presented during follow up interviews or as requested for review. Being well prepared will help with the adjudicative process and may result in a favorable decision. However, a lack of preparation may not fare so well. Remember, the adjudicator makes decisions with the priority being on risk to national security.

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