This is one of the most frequent questions asked in this forum, in one form or another. The answer will always be… we don’t know.
This is the very simplified clearance process.
I am an investigator. I am the often the face of a team of people that work your case to present to your adjudicator. Most of the team never see each other and never see your whole package. We interview enough people, review enough records, and look at enough of your activities to build your story for the adjudicator.
After we complete your case to required standards, the case (Report of Investigation or ROI) goes to a reviewer who looks over your case to make sure all the field work pieces “fit” each other and that there are no unfulfilled requirements. Review can send the whole case, or parts of the case, back for field work. They can also schedule additional work if needed to meet standards. Time is always a factor but security and thoroughness comes before timelines. Who you know doesn’t influence the investigation as much as who knows you. This will include former spouses, former significant others, former employers, and if i can find them, the grumpy neighbor you argue with about parking spaces. We try to find the real person inside you. The goal is to capture enough of your story and answer any questions the adjudicator might have about you.
Your case goes to adjudication once the case is released by review.
The adjudicator looks at the whole person and uses risk management principles to determine if you are a risk or accepted. This is not a light decision as everything comes into play, regulations, laws, guidelines, even SEAD. The adjudicator can ask for additional information/ clarification from the investigation provider (ex DCSA) or from the Subject if needed to help in their decision.
Subject used hard drugs in the last year while in college. Is there additional addictive behaviors? Did the Subject freely admit the use and cooperate in the investigation? Are their legal restrictions or timelines in place for their position or Agency? Was the Subject also involved in social drug use and does the Subject still socialize with those friends. Subject says they won’t use again but provides potential qualifiers to the investigators. Are the parents, friends, and future employer aware of the past drug use? Why or why not? Is the Subject involved in thrill seeking behavior or self-medicating? Is the Subject 18? 22? 25? 30? 50? What motivated the Subject to quit? Family found out? Discovered can’t get the cool job if they don’t stop? Completed drug treatment after being picked up by the police after an accident?
These are just a few of the pieces the investigation team and review have to capture to help the adjudicator make their decision.
So, getting a clearance? It depends. Quitting drugs in 2020 maybe okay if the other pieces of your life balance out the worrisome behavior and the position is tolerant of the short timeline . Clean since 2015 might not be long enough if there are other binges, issues in your story, or you are trying to become a DEA agent.
This applies to all “issues” - not just drugs.
So, apply for the clearance. Help your investigation by cooperating. Be honest. Don’t try to hide people or activities. Realize the process is very experienced and we will efficiently dig through your life. The process is not a game. We are not out to get you nor to help you sneak in. You have no control over who we talk to or who we don’t chose to interview. We are required to report the good and the bad. We are there to help you provide us the information needed for the adjudicator to make a very important decision… should you have a clearance.
You just won’t know without trying.