Responding to the dreaded Guideline E – Ways to maximize mitigation in your response to the Statement of Reasons.
Those of us who deal in security clearance issues and litigation understand that successfully mitigating security concerns is the key to helping our clients obtain their cleared status. We also understand that losing their security clearance can have a devastating financial and professional impact on cleared professionals.
Litigating issues related to security clearances is unique since the standard is in the best interest of national security. Basically, no one has a constitutional right to a security clearance. Yet, even with potentially damaging information, there are ways you can maximize your chances of success.
Out of the 13 adjudicative areas, the one seen most often (and perhaps least understood) is Guideline E.
Guideline E is the catch-all of adjudicative guidelines. If the concern doesn’t fit into the other assessment areas, it will undoubtedly find a home here. Basically, this guideline covers unreliable or untrustworthy behavior not considered under other guidelines. Guideline E includes issues that wouldn’t otherwise be disqualifying but when combined with other behaviors. These issues can lead to questions about one’s ability to be trusted with sensitive classified information.
The subjective nature of this guideline means it can include anything. Since the deck is stacked in favor of national security, unmitigated issues can mean the end of your clearance pursuit or termination of your clearance. Proper mitigation is important and cannot be understated; it begins when you fill out your SF-86.
Please don’t ignore it!
If there is something in your past that you are concerned about, address it.
If you are worried, the adjudicator will also be concerned. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. If obtaining your clearance is essential to you, then take the time to find an attorney familiar with the process, to help you properly answer the questions on the SF-86. Essentially, getting out in front of an issue is often your best move to mitigate it successfully.
Fix what you can fix before you seek a clearance!
Address issues that could be a problem before applying for the job.
Take steps to correct financial overextension. Catch up on paying your credit cards. Obtain credit counseling, consolidate debt, and stop spending beyond your means. Doing what you can to limit negative issues is a great way to show the adjudicator that you are a person who takes account of their personal responsibilities.
Don’t use drugs, and don’t associate with people who do!
Remember, guideline E is the catch-all.
For example, let’s say that the drug use in question occurred five years ago. You haven’t touched a drug since, but when the adjudicator speaks to others about you, their fondest memories include stories of bong hits on the roof of the frat house. This memory will be a guideline E problem.
Even though many states have now legalized marijuana, and perhaps your use is both legal and infrequent, it’s still going to be a guideline E problem. The government’s position on this is relatively elementary: responsible people do not recreationally use drugs and do not associate with people who do. To be clear, I am certainly not taking a personal position on marijuana use; however, if you want to have or keep a security clearance, any recreational use will be a problem.
A good rule of thumb
If you are struggling with how the investigator might view your actions, you need to address them.
Don’t underestimate your intuition in this area. The big picture is that the Government is attempting to predict future behavior. All of the guidelines have this purpose at heart. Individuals who have violated the terms of their clearance tend to share common behaviors that fall under Guideline E. These behaviors can include questionable personal conduct and responsibility. Taking the proper steps can mean the difference between success and failure in the security clearance process.
The security clearance attorneys at Crisp and Associates Military Law can assist you in responding to the Statement of Reasons and offering evidence in mitigation. If you are further in the process and have already received the final denial or revocation of your security clearance, the attorneys at Crips and Associates Military Law can assist you in appealing the denial/ revocation.
Whether you are a Servicemember, a civilian employee of the federal government, or a government contractor, it’s hard to deny the value, monetary and otherwise, in gaining and/or maintaining your security clearance. If you are in the process of applying for a security clearance or have recently had your application denied or clearance revoked, Crisp and Associates Military Law can provide the informed and competent legal representation necessary to obtain and retain your security clearance. Contact us today for a free consultation.