Can you lose your current clearance if you're denied an upgrade?

I was granted a DOE L two months ago. My boss put me in for a Q. I just got done talking to my investigator, and am a bit spooked. I have a bunch of problems in my past, which I dutifully noted on the eQip for both the L and the Q. Since I was honest, they’re not going to find anything investigating the Q they didn’t know about when they granted the L. But I’m worried they may decide I’m not reliable enough for the Q. So, my question: assuming they decide not to grant me the Q, is it possible they’ll also take my L away?

Give us a few more pieces of info: define a “bunch of problems,” and the age at time, along with time elapsed since. How has your behavior been once cleared? If it is good to stellar, you proved you are trustworthy. If it was all reported and you were cleared…and now more time has elapsed, I think you are likely okay. The adjudicative reasons are the same for Secret and TS. Some agencies may cut a little more slack on minor issues at the Secret level than the TS level, and there are differences between agencies. But if you are in the same agency, you were already cleared by them. It doesn’t give you a pass, but indicates it was reviewed and they didn’t send you packing. Now, many of my people are cleared Secret for years. And they put in for TS. AT times they are reasonably honest on the first SF86, and then completely honest on the TS one. If there is a disconnect between the two…that can be an issue under “lack of candor, falsifying a government form, etc” But if you previously reported it, and more time has passed…same agency I would feel good. Short answer: yes it can cause a revocation of the lower clearance with a denial. However, at times, if they suggest to the FSO Security manager that they hold off a few months or a year…they need pull that puppy back. A cancellation of the request isn’t a denial. And yes that happens.


Problems, in order:
2007: While 18, I set a small fire in my dorm room. The fire did not spread. I was charged with arson, which was eventually reduced to disorderly conduct. I pled guilty to disorderly conduct. I was sentenced to time served and the court suggested I seek counseling (which I did). I left counseling in ~2012. No other legal troubles.
2008-2017: Got drunk about once week. Was in deep denial about how much I drank, unintentionally lied about it on two security forms. It got out of control at the end of 2017. I entered treatment at the start of 2018 and have been sober it since. When asked about the deception during the most recent L clearance process, told the truth about what had happened.
May 2017: I was deeply miserable at my job and planned to quit at the end of the summer. Got called into my bosses office for some kind of disciplinary hearing (a “you’re terrible at your job” one, not a “you’re doing illegal things” one.) At the end of the meeting, I gave notice, because I didn’t want to fight for a job I was leaving anyways. I was later told I was in no danger of being fired. Looking back on it now, I think the problem was largely caused by drinking. Wasn’t drunk at work, but getting blotto once or twice a week really messes with your decision making.

I reported all this truthfully on the eQip I filled out in August of 2018, and got an L in May of 2019. The only thing that changed on the Q eQip was me realizing I should probably note the therapy down in the court-ordered therapy section (I had noted it in the criminal record section previously.) During the interview, my investigator also noted down some foreigners I knew from school but hadn’t reported, since the foreign contact section is super vague and I thought they didn’t qualify.

Again, aside from the things noted above, all this was noted on the L eQip, and she’s not going to turn up anything else because I was honest on the form.

I can keep doing my job with the L, so as long as it’s not in danger, I’m happy enough.

I wouldn’t worry about the arson disorderly conduct charge. Getting cleared and staying in the same industry is a plus. As it will likely be the same standards more uniformly enforced. Switching to a different client is where a lot of people get jammed up for prior conduct. Not having it on your forms…is likely the big issue. However now that you are sober and clear headed I would consider a sit down with your FSO to make sure you self report anything from above not yet reported. It certainly cannot hurt to wait a bit longer to submit for a higher clearance. That too would be in your favor.


If someone has a Secret clearance and are being processed for a TS/SCI full scope poly and are denied for some reason, does this person lose their current level of Secret clearance?

It would depend on the reason (type, how long ago, seriousness…), whether you omited/lied on your SF86, whether you were supposed to self-report these issues if they happened while you had a clearance…

If denied, several things could happen:
-You are just denied the SCI access, and you keep your collateral clearance (S or TS)
-Your existing clearance is suspended pending re-adjudication of newly discovered issues
-You lose everything


I can’t speak to the adjudication criteria for L and Q clearances, but I do know that for C, S, and TS, the adjudication criteria are the same. The only difference between the levels are the depth of the background investigtation. Assuming this is also true for L and Q clearances (key word: assuming), then you should be fine for Q if they didn’t already deny you for L.

On a more general note, anyone who has an existing security clearance that has a higher level clearance denied for whatever reason will indeed put their existing security clearance at risk.