Downplayed drug use on SF86, need advice


I’m 22 years old, working for DOD. My initial position only required public trust, which I received after filling out an SF85P. However a new position I am going to start requires a TS/SCI. In my SF86, i admitted to experimentation of a variety of drugs in college (weed, cocaine, mdma, and acid) but downplayed the extent to which I used cocaine. I said I only tried it a couple of times when in reality I’ve used it probably a total of 15 times over the course of 2 years, with the most recent use being late 2016. I said in the form that my most recent use was early 2015. I now have a very guilty conscious and am considering talking to my FSO to admit that I downplayed the use and ask if I could update my eQIP. My questions are:

  1. as I only submitted my SF86 a month ago, should I wait until an investigator calls me and I just admit in person to him/her? Or should I talk to FSO now to update it
  2. if I admit to use in the last year (it was just two times) will that automatically disqualify me from TS eligibility? I have absolutely sworn off all drug use since the last time I did it (7 months ago now) and have disassociated from friends who use and will sign any form intending to never use again with automatic revocation of clearance if violated.

Any recommendations/thoughts would be much appreciated.

You should always be open and honest. Even if you get away with it one time, it can come back to bite you later when you renew your clearance. Does your TS require a polygraph?

Yes I understand that now, and I regret not being completely transparent initially, but what’s done is done and now I just want advice on the best way to pursue admitting the truth. And yes, I believe my clearance requires a CI polygraph.

In terms of mitigating personal conduct guidelines is it any better to bring it forward before I am interviewed by a case officer? Or is it better to proactively bring it forward during my case interview (without being confronted specifically about drugs)? Or does it not make a difference either way?

Voluntarily coming forward to admit an omission is ALWAYS better then waiting until you are confronted with the information. It may not fully mitigate the drug use issue, but it will help on the dishonesty/lack of candor issue.

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Marko nailed it. I can tell you for the top secret Poly positions on my contract (340 positions), a minimum of 12 months is required since last drug use. Period. But this client takes a harsh view on each potential disqualifier. I would definitely want to get it in writing on my SF86, discuss it candidly with my investigator and also speak to it with Poly. To be blunt…this will be an issue. If I were your FSO and knew this information…I would not submit you. But since you weren’t honest with them they cannot save you from yourself. Possible options: remove yourself from processing. Wait until you have at least 13 months, maybe 15 months clean living. That way, if you remain there, you can confidently look straight ahead while you Poly and tell them it was then 18 months since last use (Polys take a while before you get scheduled). Your age works in your favor here. I have found that the general consensus is that college drug use is expected. Add in ritalin or adderall for study nights and please speak to this if you used it. But you need prove you are capable of living within the rules of society.

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Hi Amber,

I still have not heard anything regarding my clearance. It is now 16 months since my last use of any drug. If I have the interview soon, can i come forward to the investigator and admit to downplaying the use, relaying that I haven’t touched a drug in 16 months and that will the remain the case for the rest of my life? I found out recently that I will not be polygraphed, but for the sake of my conscious I’d rather be honest to the investigator once I have an interview. Do you think I will have a chance of being granted a clearance given that it’s now been over 16 months, I will come forward proactively to the investigator, and I have no other blemishes (financial, foreign, etc) on my record? Thanks for your help.

You haven’t been denied which, basically, means that you still have a chance. I don’t think that there is a way for you to get out in front of this until you are contacted by your investigator. Do any of the references or others listed on your SF86 know about your drug use? Could it come out in their interviews?

Write up your story and stress all of the applicable mitigating factors. Research the adjudicative guidelines and put something together. You will have to update it before your interview but start it now. Present that, verbally and in written form, to your investigator at the START of your interview.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk with a clearance attorney. Most provide a free consultation and it very well might be worth your while to pay someone for a few hours of work.

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I think Ed has a good approach. Educate yourself now, consult now. They can help you choose the correct and impactful verbiage (I may have invented that word impactful). That is critical. I seen a few appeals basically saying “I’m really a nice guy, because I’m a nice guy, folks say I’m a nice guy…”.But they never once speak to the potential mitigation.

A lack of candor will likely have serious impact. I think Ed’s point on the references knowing frequency is asking “would they speak of 15 uses”? If there is a significant delta between what you wrote and what they say…it may be too late. However, if you removed that crowd from your life, and you are now on the straight and narrow, you also have the youthful stupidity aspect granting you a lot of leeway. The harder the drug use, my client wants more time. Sometimes up to 3 years of no use. But I have seen a successful appeal on another thread from a person having significant drug use and jail time. He did not disclose because he had sound legal advice regarding expunged information. I confess I was shocked at the amount of drug use, arrests and lack of candor…and he still won the appeal. However I stand by my position of over report vice under report. As an FSO CSO I want to give the best outcome in the here and now as well as the future. Though this appeal was granted he went through a lot of effort, loss of income, revocation of clearance, attorney fees…and then it all came out in the wash in his favor. Call me stupid, incorrect, wrong, whatever, I maintain the entire issue would have been avoided by reporting it up front.

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That is great advice and I will make sure to stress the mitigating factors. Are any of you aware if 16 months is enough time from experimental hard drug use (in college) to be granted a clearance? I know it depends on agency (CBP and FBI are much more strict). But for a DoD position does anyone have experience in the timeline there?

Unfortunately, I believe you have a difficult road of mitigation to get your clearance. Starting with the discrepancy about the exact times you have used cocaine. Only having 16 months pass might not be enough time to mitigate. 15 times is getting out of the realm of “experimental use”. Have you done any drug treatment? Read up on the Adjudication Guidelines on Guideline H and be prepared to mitigate concerns there. There could be a lack of candor for writing down a few times when it was over ten.

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I concur with smile. I would anticipate a 24 month minimum, to 3 years of no use and proof of mitigation. No matter what, if denied, appeal. Present your case as to how you mitigated it and what your steps moving forward are. Having seen a specific case in another thread…I can tell you they are capable of excusing a lot of bad behavior.