Obtaining Security Clearance

How to Overcome a Lie on the SF-86

Imagine this scenario: you just graduated college and are offered a job that requires eligibility for a security clearance. You fill out the SF-86 and for fear of not getting the job offer, omit the fact that you used marijuana and misused prescription drugs a few times while in college. You then submit the application and wait….. during which time you start to regret not disclosing the illegal drug use. What do you do? Can you fix it before it gets discovered during the investigation? A Department of Energy (DOE) contractor faced this dilemma recently and was initially denied eligibility for a clearance under Guideline E: Personal Conduct. He subsequently appealed the decision to the DOE Office of Hearing and Appeals. Here is a summary of the case:

The applicant was interviewed by an OPM investigator and self-admitted to providing false information about illegal drug use prior being confronted about it by the investigator. The applicant provided evidence that he had discussed the issue with his girlfriend prior to the interview and planned on being totally honest and truthful, regardless of the consequences. The judge opined that, yes, he initially provided false information on the form, but at the first opportunity voluntarily came forward and corrected his answers. Had the applicant waited for the investigator to confront him, then it would not have been viewed in the same light. Also, take note that the drug use itself was not the issue, but rather lying about it. I think most would agree, the moral of this story is – always tell the truth.


  1. Guys please do not lie.

    Ive admitted to using marijuana and hard drugs in college. Its not uncommon. More so I had a DUI arrest from 2 years ago (literally couple months after college) and I recently received my clearance. Just be as transparent as possible. Lying will only sink your chances.

  2. The most often given advice on this site is, "Tell the truth . . . "

  3. I’ve walked people off our client compound when telling lies on the Secret BI is revealed at an upgrade several years later. Believe it or don’t, the Poly process will reveal the majority pf people trying to hide information. It is almost always for falsifying government documents and not for the actual drug use.

  4. Hi! Sorry I know this is old. Is it an automatic clearance denial if you left off one instance of drug use on your security forms but disclose it in the poly (pre-test)? Or could it be a suitability denial? Thanks!

  5. Most agencies treat this very seriously. Any time you admit to leaving something off the SF-86 only after you get to the poly, it will more than likely result in a disqualification or denial or whatever you call it.