Alcohol Consumption and Security Clearances
Alcohol consumption is legal (if you are of age) and it is perfectly acceptable and normal in most social settings, right? So why is it a potential issue for those who want or already have a security clearance? Alcohol affects each individual a bit differently, but when someone drinks excessively the potential for impaired judgment, reduced inhibitions, and aggressive or high risk behavior increases. Statistics have shown alcohol abuse, more often than not, precedes violent or aggressive behavior. The security concern is that in an alcohol-induced state of mind carelessness, impulsiveness, and being more easily manipulated may cause an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. When tied in with foreign intelligence recruitment methods such as using a “honey pot’ or taking photos during involvement in other compromising situations, the abuse of alcohol is a legitimate security concern. As in most adjudicative guidelines, it falls back to one’s trustworthiness, reliability, and good judgment.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are the two terms most often used by mental health professionals when evaluating someone who has alcohol related issues, incidents, or behavioral problems. Alcohol dependence usually involves regular, daily drinking where it is no longer a choice, but a need. Alcohol abuse may involve only occasional binge drinking, but to the point of physical incapacitation or unconsciousness. In evaluating drinking behavior the amount of daily consumption and amount consumed occasionally at a single sitting are both important. Understanding the “why’ someone drinks is also relevant. Immaturity or succumbing to peer pressure, recent life events or changes, ant-social tendencies, and physical pain relief are also considered when evaluating
Even one DWI/DUI arrest can be an indicator of alcohol abuse, as research has shown that it is highly unlikely the arrest was an isolated lapse in judgment. It is more likely that they have done it numerous times before and have just not been caught. That is not to say that just one alcohol related arrest or incident will prevent you from holding a security clearance. Rather, when put together with other issues such as family problems, job performance, or financial woes, it may be viewed as an indicator for a larger issue. Here are ways to mitigate concerns about alcohol consumption:
- Understand what alcohol abuse and dependence are and assess yourself honestly; if you recognize that you may have a problem then acknowledge it and take proactive measures to change.
- If you can’t do on your own, seek help through counseling or treatment programs; stick with it and don’t quit, follow through to completion; don’t allow relapses and remove yourself from environments where alcohol use is prevalent.
- Abstinence (especially if voluntary) or responsible use and time passed since any alcohol-related incidents are always a big plus in your favor in helping an adjudicator make a decision.
By making positive changes in your lifestyle regarding alcohol consumption you are demonstrating to the adjudicator that you are reliable, trustworthy, have sound judgment, and are able to exercise an appropriate level of discretion, thus overcoming and mitigating the security concern.