Rising Personal Debt Torpedoes Security Clearances

Susan Hall
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Though the job site Clearancejobs.com reported last summer that it's taking less time these days to obtain a security clearance, personal debt is sinking that ship for a lot of people. It creates a Catch-22: They can't get a job to help them get out of debt.


Federal Times quotes Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com, saying:

More and more people are experiencing trouble either obtaining a clearance or during an existing clearance reinvestigation due to hard economic times. These are far more common now than they were three to five years ago.

In its June report, Dice.com listed security clearances among the hardest-to-find IT "skills" in the East. (Dice is the parent company of Clearancejobs.com. Full disclosure: I blog for Dice, too.) A clearance is required to work for federal jobs and for government contractors that deal with classified national security information. Last year, 4.2 million federal employees and contractors had clearances. Personal debt is one of 13 factors weighed in determining whether to grant such access. In the government's view, too much debt could make a person vulnerable to bribery or blackmail, the article says.


It gives several examples of people who bought property that later was foreclosed upon because they could not find steady tenants and/or they were under water on the mortgage.


Though the government does not publish data on clearances that were denied, the article points to rulings published by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, a Pentagon agency that handles appeals of prospective clearance denials. In fiscal 2006, it published nine decisions in which foreclosure was mentioned as a factor; by 2011, there were 69 on its website.


And David Price, a retired Navy captain who practices law in Virginia Beach, Va., is quoted, saying:

You're only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Foreclosure by itself won't sink a person's chances of obtaining clearance. Adjudicators, who already are supposed to take illness, job loss and other circumstances into account, want to see good faith and responsible behavior in dealing with foreclosure. And language was added to the House version of the 2012 defense authorization bill, requiring "special consideration" for service members with foreclosures on their credit reports.

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