Security Clearance Process

It Pays to Read the Entire Section Before Answering Police Record Questions on the SF86

Increasingly I come across background investigations where the applicant fills out the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86) and they fail to list required information in the police record section of the form. As a result, the investigation is conducted, information is found that contradicts the applicant’s answers to the questions, and the clearance is denied. This happens not only on the SF-86, but also on the SF-85 and SF-85P used for HSPD-12 and fitness investigations.

If everyone took their time and read all of the information contained in Section 22-Police Record, they would not overlook these very important words:

For this section, report information regardless of whether the record in your case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record, or if the charge was dismissed. You need not report convictions under the Federal Controlled Substances Act for which the court issued an expungement order under the authority of 21 U.S.C. 844 or 18 U.S.C. 3607. Be sure to include all incidents whether occurring in the U.S. or abroad.

Have any of the following happened? In the last seven (7) years:

  1. Have you been issued a summons, citation, or ticket to appear in court in a criminal proceeding against you? (Do not check if all the citations involved traffic infractions where the fine was less than $300 and did not include alcohol or drugs)
  2. Have you been arrested by any police officer, sheriff, marshal or any other type of law enforcement official?
  3. Have you been charged, convicted, or sentenced of a crime in any court? (Include all qualifying charges, convictions or sentences in any Federal, state, local, military, or non-U.S. court, even if previously listed on this form).
  4. Have you been or are you currently on probation or parole? Are you currently on trial or awaiting a trial on criminal charges?

There are some key words in these questions that somehow, applicants skim over without really taking the time to understand what is being asked and whether it applies to them or not. The default answer is “No” to all. Now they have compounded the criminal or law violation issue into a dishonesty or lack of candor issue, and an adjudicator must try to figure out if it was intentional or just oversight. And this is without even going into the EVER questions in this section. So, in closing, it is beneficial to read the fine print in the instructions before submitting your SF-86.