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Don Burleson Blog 









United States SECRET security clearances.  Costs, time required, and disqualifying conditions

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

 Top Secret This is an online review of the costs and procedures for civilians obtaining a U.S. CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET or TOP SECRET security clearances.

Those with prior military service can get a security clearance far faster than someone from the general public.  This document covers:

  • Processing time
  • Cost
  • Disqualifying conditions

How long does the process take? 

In the past three years, DoD has had a significant backlog of security clearances and reinvestigations pending, most especially for TOP SECRET level access. In general, expect a CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET clearance to take between 1 and 3 months. A TOP SECRET clearance commonly takes more than a year.

What is the cost of a U.S. security clearance? 

Civilian companies who do classified work for the Dept. of Defense (DoD), or a national security related contract, must bear the cost of security clearances for their employees and clearance investigations can cost several thousands of dollars.

Disqualifying conditions for a U.S. Security Clearance:


Disqualifying conditions for a security clearance may include but are not limited to:

  • arrest and/or conviction of a felony;
  • frequent involvement with authorities even as a juvenile;
  • DWI/DUI;
  • having been a patient in an institution primarily devoted to the treatment of mental, emotional, or psychological disorders;
  • A history of not meeting financial obligations.  A pattern of financial irresponsibility (bankruptcy, debt or credit problems, defaulting on a student loan);
  • membership in any organization that advocates the commission of acts of force or violence to deny other persons their rights under the Constitution of the United States;
  • having petitioned to be declared a conscientious objector to war;
  • moving violations with fines over $200;
  • illegal drug use (to include any use of cocaine, heroin, LSD, and PCP); and the illegal purchase, possession, or sale of any such narcotics.
  • Deceptive or illegal financial practices, such as embezzlement, employee theft, check fraud, income tax evasion, expense account fraud, filing deceptive loan statements, and other intentional breaches of trust
  • Inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts
  • Unexplained affluence
  • Financial problems that are linked to gambling, drug abuse, alcoholism, or other issues of a security concern.
  • Deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of a material fact in any written document or oral statement to the government when applying for security processing

Other key factors taken into account include:

  • Vulnerability to Coercion:  Any omission, concealment, or falsification of material information increases an individual's vulnerability to coercion, exploitation, or pressure.
  • Problems in Work Performance: The work environment offers many opportunities to exhibit behavioral or psychological problems associated with unreliability, untrustworthiness, or poor judgment. These problems include: rebellious attitude toward supervisors, habitual cutting of corners or failure to comply with regulations or procedures, lying to cover up mistakes, overreaction to real or imagined criticism, lack of commitment to the organization, pattern of attendance or tardiness problems, careless operation of equipment.
  • Employment History: Depending upon an individual's age and circumstances, frequent changes of employment without advancement raise the possibility of unsatisfactory work performance due to dishonesty, irresponsibility, drug use, emotional/mental problems, or other issues of security concern. For more information, see Inability to Form a Commitment under Emotional, Mental, and Personality Disorders. It is often difficult for investigators to determine the true circumstances under which an individual terminates employment. Fearing law suits, many employers refuse to provide derogatory information about a former employee.
  • Conditions of Military Discharge: Applicants often claim "honorable discharge" from military service when, in fact, they were given a "general discharge under honorable conditions." The latter means the individual was discharged for cause. The cause is often inability to adapt to military life or some other form of unsuitability, such as a drug, alcohol, criminal, or emotional/mental problem. The personnel security questionnaire contains one easily recognized clue that a so-called "honorable discharge" may actually be something else. If the applicant served less than the minimum time of service (e.g., only 18 months of a four year enlistment), or was discharged on a date other than the anniversary date of his or her enlistment, it may be a general discharge under honorable conditions. In this case, adjudicators may wish to evaluate the reasons for the subject's early discharge.
  • Multiple Traffic Offenses: Multiple traffic citations for reckless or high-speed driving, including driving with a suspended license, are examples of high-risk, antisocial behavior that may be a security concern. Many such offenses are actually arrests for driving while intoxicated that have been plea-bargained down to a lesser offense. A person with a large number of unpaid parking tickets may be considered a scofflaw. A large number of minor offenses raises concerns about a person's attitude toward authority and responsibility. A person who feels above the law in this respect may also feel that some security regulations are picky and unnecessary and do not merit his or her compliance.
  • Arguing/Fighting/Uncontrolled Anger: There are questions of judgment and reliability if an individual has offenses for disorderly conduct, shows anger or argues at inappropriate times, or has fits of temper. A pattern of violent or aggressive reactions during adolescence is a rather stable personality trait that is unlikely to be outgrown with age. Ref 4
  • Civil Litigation: A number of crimes are now pursued through civil actions rather than criminal proceedings. Spouse abuse and child abuse are often pursued as civil litigation requesting damages, because pressing criminal charges could cause the offender to lose his job and jeopardize his ability to pay spousal or child support. New laws make it much easier and faster for merchants to pursue shoplifting charges in civil rather than criminal court. Some people who file numerous lawsuits have problems in interpersonal relations.
  • Weapons Issues: Carrying a concealed handgun without a permit or any other weapons violation is a concern. The belief that one has specific enemies against whom one must be armed is also a concern.
  • Gang Membership: Gang membership, by itself, is not a security concern. In some cases, the goals and objectives of the gang, or illegal activities in which the gang engages, do make membership a concern. Gang efforts to recruit military personnel raise questions about gang objectives. In questionable cases, local criminal investigative agencies may be able to provide relevant information.
  • Behavior Patterns Associated with Espionage:  There is no single profile of the employee who is likely to betray an employer's trust. However, clinical assessment of Americans arrested for espionage and academic research findings on white collar criminals in general do identify behavior patterns commonly found among such persons.

Individuals who betray their employer's trust tend to possess certain personality disorders or personal weaknesses. They may be impulsive or immature, and likely to do whatever feels good at the moment. They may engage in high risk activities without thinking about the consequences. They may have a propensity for violating rules and regulations. They may have drifted from one relationship or job to another, with little sense of purpose or loyalty to anyone or anything. They may have a grossly inflated view of their own abilities, so that disappointment and bitterness are inevitable.

These three disorders are the ones most likely to be found in individuals who commit espionage, although not necessarily with a degree of severity to qualify as a disorder.

·         Antisocial Personality Disorder

·         Narcissistic Personality Disorder

·         Paranoid Personality Disorder

In many cases, the pattern of observed behavior or of test results might be better described as indicating a personal weakness or undesirable character trait rather than a "disorder." These personal characteristics are associated with high risk, irresponsible, or emotionally unstable behavior:

·         Impulsiveness/Immaturity

·         Inability to Form a Commitment

·         Vindictiveness

·         Risk-Seeking

  • Borderline Personality Disorder:  

    The principal characteristics of borderline personality disorder are: 

    • Unwarranted fear of rejection or abandonment, usually associated with low self-esteem. Such persons are uncomfortable alone. Examples of such behavior include inappropriate anger when someone important to them must cancel an appointment, or panic at a temporary separation.  

    • A pattern of unstable relationships with friends, lovers, or bosses. Such persons need a great deal of nurturing and support from any relationship. They may initially idolize someone who provides that nurturing, but then shift suddenly and dramatically to view that same person as hostile or cruel if they do not care enough or are not "there" enough for them.  

    • Suicide, threats of suicide, or self-mutilation precipitated by fears of separation or rejection, such as fear of abandonment by a lover.  

    • Unstable self-image leading to sudden changes in career goals, values, or types of friends.
      Potentially damaging impulsive behavior in several areas such as substance abuse, unsafe sex, gambling, spending money irresponsibly, reckless driving, or binge eating.  

    • Inappropriate expressions of anger, or difficulty controlling anger; chronic feelings of emptiness or boredom; or short but intense periods of irritability or anxiety.

For Oracle certified consultants with active U.S. Security clearances, just call:


Reader feedback:

Question:  I see many jobs advertised that require secret security clearance, but I have no idea how a person goes about getting a secret security clearance.  Does one have to obtain a secret security clearance prior to applying for any job that requires one?  Or does a person get hired and then the employer initiates the process of getting that employee a clearance?   Any information you can provide as to how a person starts the process would be greatly appreciate.

Answer:  A security clearance is very expensive (over $100,000, depending on the amount of work), and they cannot be acquired without already having a job that requires a government clearance.  You don't have to get a clearance to apply for a job that requires a security clearance, but your employer is within their rights to require you to already have one, as a prerequisite for applying for the job.  Most folks get their first security clearance in the military and by taking entry-level jobs with the government.





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