Obtaining Security Clearance

Future Clearance Applicants – What the Whole Person Concept Really Means

If a perfect human being exists, the U.S. Intelligence Community or DoD has yet to meet her (or him). That’s why the “whole person concept” is such an important part of the security clearance process. National security adjudicators are much more interested in lifestyle patterns than they are in any single activity or event. For example, if there’s drug use in your past or a criminal record, adjudicators consider mitigating factors such as your age at the time, the severity of the offense, and the likelihood of it happening again. They understand people grow up, they mature, they go through college, so they’re not looking at one incident that doesn’t reflect someone in the best light.

For younger students who have an eye on working in a national security position in the future, here are some proactive steps you can take now:

  • Be careful, watch your words and posts on social media: Publicly available information can be reviewed during the background investigation process. Information posted years ago could still trigger questions during an investigation.
  • Play it smart at parties: If you’re at a party where people are using drugs, use discretion and avoid getting caught up in using any as illegal drug use is one reason that may result in a denial of a security clearance. A word of caution; marijuana use may be legal in places like the nation’s capital, but it is still illegal under federal law.
  • Think about the company you keep: Investigators are going to ask about the people you surround yourself with and how you spend your free time. Associations with criminals or drug users can reflect poorly on you.

Applicants can also expect questions about:

  • High debt to income ratio or delinquent debt: Adjudicators want to know if you live up to your financial obligations, which can translate to an overall picture of whether an applicant is good on his or her word.
  • Mental health: If a mental issue does not impact a person’s ability to use sound judgment, it should not be an issue. In fact, seeking medication or therapy to handle life stress can be a positive factor, but hiding any counseling or treatment is bad and will result in a denial.
  • Foreign contacts: If you have foreign national contacts that you keep in touch make sure to identify them on the security form. This includes Facebook and Instagram friends because social media connections are considered “close and continuing relationships.” If you don’t really know who some people are, unfriend or delete them. It’s important to remember that the people you give access to on Facebook have access to your personal network and a lot of information about you.