Security Clearance Denial

Contractor Overcomes Drug Use and Lack of Candor to Keep Clearance

Many on this forum ask how long is long enough after the last use of illegal drugs. There is no set timeline for adjudicators to use. It depends on several factors: circumstances; age; type; recency; and probability of reoccurrence. A recent Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) case involved illegal drug use in college while holding a security clearance and a lack of candor in not disclosing it on the SF-86 when she first applied for a clearance. Here is a summary of the case:

The applicant was in college in 2013 and applied for a DoD contractor internship which required a security clearance. At that time she did not disclose any illegal drug use and was granted a security clearance. Over the next two summer internships with the contractor she did not use illegal drugs, but while in school during the college semesters she used marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. In 2015 she continued as full-time employee with the same DoD contractor and in 2017 she was transferred to a new position that required keeping her clearance. She went to her Facility Security Officer and self-reported her drug use, and as required, the FSO created an incident report in JPAS that led to a review of her eligibility and an initial determination that her clearance should be revoked.

The applicant subsequently submitted an appeal to DOHA. The presiding judge opined the applicant had mitigated her illegal drug use by accepting responsibility for her actions and self-reporting, removing herself from environments where drugs were used, and attesting to never using illegal drugs again. The judge also inferred that she was young, in college at the time, and didn’t fully understand the security clearance process and ramifications of not providing accurate information. Although she admitted she was afraid of not getting the internship at the time, she was only thinking in the short-term during finals for the semester and how to get through it all.

In my opinion the judge was quite lenient in this case. The applicant used multiple types of illegal drugs from 2011 to as recently as 2016. Regardless of her intent, she obtained an internship with a DoD contractor based on false information and used illegal drugs while holding a security clearance. It seemed to me the judge put more weight into the applicant’s own claims of abstinence, immaturity at the time, and future intent rather than the facts of the case resulting in the initial denial. In any event, this is an example of how to overcome drug involvement and personal conduct (lack of candor) issues.

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