Legal Insider: Why do Security Clearances Get Denied?


This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.

The federal government uses 13 adjudicative guidelines to determine whether federal employees and contractors should be eligible for a security clearance to gain or maintain access to classified information. These guidelines include:

  • Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States
  • Guideline B: Foreign Influence
  • Guideline C: Foreign Preference
  • Guideline D: Sexual Behavior
  • Guideline E: Personal Conduct
  • Guideline F: Financial Considerations
  • Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption
  • Guideline H: Drug Involvement
  • Guideline I: Psychological Conditions
  • Guideline J: Criminal Conduct
  • Guideline K: Handling Protected Information
  • Guideline L: Outside Activities
  • Guideline M: Use of Information Technology Systems

Based on the 42 decisions issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) since January 1, 2016, by far the most common reason why a security clearance is denied is based on Guideline F. Financial consideration issues usually arise when an applicant for a security clearance has too many outstanding or delinquent debts, is facing bankruptcy, has credit report problems, or has unaddressed tax liens.

The second most common reason why a security clearance is denied is based on Guideline E. Personal conduct issues can involve a broad range of misconduct, such as information regarding an individual’s prior termination, arrest, or domestic incident, lying on security clearance forms, or basically any other types of general wrongdoing, criminal, or otherwise.

The third most common reason why a security clearance is denied is based on Guideline H. Drug involvement or abuse is considered to be the illegal use of a drug or use of a legal drug in a manner that deviates from approved medical direction (e.g., overuse of prescription pain medication).

Although the 42 security clearance decisions issued by DOHA since January 1, 2016, involved 26 cases based solely on Guideline F, 16 cases were based on one or more of the following adjudicative guidelines:

  • Guideline F: Financial Considerations (34)
  • Guideline E: Personal Conduct (11)
  • Guideline H: Drug Involvement (6)
  • Guideline J: Criminal Conduct (2)
  • Guideline B: Foreign Influence (1)
  • Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption (1)

It is important to note that the reported DOHA decisions generally cover security clearance appeals from DoD contractor employees, but the decisions provide good insight into common reasons why the federal government denies security clearances.

We represent federal employees in employment and security clearance matters. If you need assistance with a federal retirement or an employment issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at

Recent Stories

Two people were rescued from a precarious situation in Glencarlyn Park on Friday. The driver of an SUV reportedly mistook the gas for the brake in the parking lot of…

Morning Notes

I-66 Change Takes Effect Today — “Starting Monday, Dec. 5, vehicles on I-66 in Northern Virginia will need three or more occupants to qualify as a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)….

Daily Debrief for Dec 2, 2022

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published 6 articles that were read a total of 14680 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today…

Police issued a traffic ticket every six minutes, on average, during an enforcement effort in front of Nottingham Elementary on Thursday afternoon.

Hello Everyone — You are invited to the final meeting of NAACP Arlington Branch NAACP for 2022
When: Dec 12, 2022, 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: 2022 General Membership Meeting — NAACP Arlington Branch
Register in advance for this webinar

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

7:00 pm Meeting Opens.
7:30 pm Installation
8:00 pm Presentation/Q&A; by Dave Schutz on Ranked Choice Voting
8:30 pm Final Remarks and Comments by Newly Elected Members
9:00 pm Meeting Adjourns

Installation Official Robert N. Barnette, Jr. President, Virginia State Conference NAACP The President of the Virginia State Conference NAACP will serve as the Installation Official and provide remarks for our newly elected officers at the general membership.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Join us December 10 & 11 for our Annual Handmade Holiday Workshop Series. We have a myriad of fun and festive programs from linoleum block wrapping paper printing and buttonhole book making workshops led by Eliza Clifford to a meditative grid workshop and Calligraphy Card Making with Anjelika Deogirikar. Join these wonderful artists and get creative this holiday season!

Submit your own Announcement here.

Light Up Arlington – Clarendon Menorah Lighting

Join us as we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah! Enjoy delicious Latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and more!

Clarendon Menorah Lighting and Community Celebration

Experience the festival of lights!!

*Lighting of a giant 9 foot Menorah

Read More

National Chamber Ensemble – Holiday Cheer!

NCE’s Holiday Concert will bring the finest classical masterpieces and holiday favorites together for the whole family. The festivities begin with Leroy Anderson’s classic “Sleigh Ride” and “Chanukkah Festival”, music from the Nutcracker and by J.S. Bach.

Outstanding Young Artist


Subscribe to our mailing list