The Whole-Person Concept for Security Clearance Applicants

In applying the Whole-Person Concept, an administrative judge or adjudicator must evaluate an applicant’s eligibility for a security clearance by considering the totality of the applicant’s conduct and all relevant circumstances. You will see this verbiage written in all of the case summaries by Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals judges. They must consider all available and reliable information about the person, past and present, or favorable and unfavorable, when making a decision on whether to grant of deny eligibility for access to classified information. National security adjudicators, when reviewing investigations apply these nine factors as a part of the Whole-Person Concept:

1. The nature, extent, and seriousness of the conduct.

2. The circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation.

3. The frequency and recency of the conduct.

4. The individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct.

5. The extent to which participation is voluntary.

6. The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other permanent behavioral changes.

7. The motivation for the conduct.

8. The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation or duress.

9. The likelihood of continuation or recurrence.

Adjudicators and judges also apply these additional considerations…

  • Did the applicant voluntarily report the information?
  • Was the applicant truthful and complete in responding to questions?
  • Did the applicant seek assistance, and did they follow professional guidance, when appropriate?
  • Did the applicant resolve the security concern or is it likely to favorably resolve the security concern?
  • Has the applicant demonstrated positive changes in behavior?

At the end of the day, getting a security clearance is a privilege, not a right, and any doubt about a person’s trustworthiness, honesty, and reliability will always sway on the side of protecting national security.


  1. Excellent take away. This needs to be a posted oath that’s read and signed by the clearance holder during each employment evaluation period.

  2. I received a secret clearance less than a year out from BR. In fact my financial advisor advised because of a car lease mishap… blah blah blah. That was 5 years ago and a potential employer is asking me to update for a TS/SCI. Will my only having a mortgage - no credit cards, no loans, my car is almost paid off (could pay it off before I submit) show I’ve learned my lesson and a TS be possible? I like the job and would be interested but don’t want to end up unemployed or lose my secret (although without a job requiring one I’ll lose it anyway).