Lied with recruiter guidance on enlistment SF86. Now up for TS, coming clean?

I joined the Delayed Entry Program in February of 2021. While talking with a recruiter, I told him about my marijuana use. I was a frequent, purely social user from March of 2020 until December of 2020 when I quit with no problems. I don’t miss it at all and my life absolutely improved without it’s use. I also never purchased it myself, nor owned any paraphernalia. I left for basic in August of 2021, and eventually in July 2021 had a Secret clearance granted in order to access training material. I’m currently in the pipeline for my rate in the Navy.

When I told him, he wanted me to completely omit it from any enlistment document. I eventually settled on downplaying it - I listed my last use as August 2020, and that I used it only 5 times. This was the info I used on my NASIS which I now know as the SF-86. I figured a half-lie was better than a total one. I wanted to come clean in the interview as the guilt was killing me but I did it in the office surrounded by recruiters, including the one I filled out the form with, and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m now up for a TS and I want to come clean since not only am I concerned about the lie being found out, but the guilt I’d hold for getting cleared under a lie would bother me for a very long time. Again, my use was frequent in accordance with the dates listed above, but it was completely social in nature and the fact that it’s not only normalized in today’s world but especially in my state didn’t help. In high school, everyone from the bona fide stoners to hopeful college athletes and AP students used it. All use also took place before the age of 18, I’m 19 now if that means anything. I did talk to my command security office and was just told that the choice to come clean is mine and I’m responsible for all decisions I make from here on out.

I do have a few questions:

  1. When I come clean, will the fact that I technically fraudulently enlisted put me at risk of losing my job or discharge from the service? I do understand that OPM and the DoD are separate entities. This job is truly the only one I joined to do and I would not have any other.

  2. Am I at risk for clearance denial and/or revocation of current clearance? I do believe that the recruiter’s guidance, self-admission, “young ignorance” and fear serve as mitigating factors but the fact I lied on a federal form that’s based on honesty is huge in itself.

I understand that recruiter guidance aside, I ultimately am responsible for my actions. I’m terrified my mistake and past drug use will cost me an amazing opportunity and losing my job in the service would crush me, there’s nothing more I want to do. With that being said, I refuse to have my clearance continue to be based on a lie. I plan on filling out this current SF-86 honestly and explaining why the info is discrepant with my last form, and explaining everything talking to an investigator. I appreciate all input and advice.

I’m going to give you straightforward input, and hopefully some other people will see this and jump in.

Your decision to tell the truth now is the correct one. In fact, there is no other choice. Intentionally mischaracterizing past drug use, no matter if your recruiter told you to omit or lie about it, is a red flag for an adjudicator and is grounds for clearance denial based on falsification. However, keep in mind that adjudicators use the whole person concept. If this is the only issue on your form, I’d say that works in your favor. Adjudicators also know that recruiters pull these stunts more frequently than anyone would like to admit. That doesn’t excuse what you did, I’m just saying it’s a dirty little secret. But I will say that your situation can indeed carry a lot of detrimental weight. Hitting this situation head on is the only way forward.

Regarding your questions more specifically:

  1. Your claim of “fraudulently enlisting” is not the specific thing I would worry about. Focus on getting cleared for your TS. If that goes through, the military, like civilian jobs, don’t care how it came about. They just care you have the clearance and can perform as required. I hope that sort of answers your question.

  2. The short is answer yes, but it’s complicated. More complicated than for me to delve into. However, I would not go the route of providing the recruiter as an excuse and/or mitigating factor for your behavior, as that suggests deflection and irresponsibility. Your statement, saying, “I understand that recruiter guidance aside, I ultimately am responsible for my actions”, is the exact mentality you need to have when you speak to your investigator. I know the recruiter gave you the worst advice, and you rightfully can be pissed deep down that he would suggest such a thing, but the buck stops with you in this case.

All in all, I’d say your situation is a dicey one, but it is one that isn’t uncommon when people initially join the military, and not one an adjudicator probably hasn’t seen before. You are rightfully concerned about possible clearance denial, but you have the right mentality moving forward. Just keep your head up, and hopefully this will be water under the bridge soon enough.

I am sure your situation has already worked itself out however it is going to do this response is for future new recruits who are going into their interviews after the recruiter told them to lie. BE HONEST AND TELL THE INVESTIGATOR EVERYTHING. Yes the lie is bad. There is something called alleged directed falsification and if your recruiter TOLD you to lie then that needs to be documented in your report. Bring your recruiter’s business card with you to your interview because the investigator will need all the information on it: name, rank, address, phone number, and email. They will need to know what the truth is and what the recruiter instructed you to say. You may have your interview at the recruiting office but it should be in an office or private room away from everyone else with the door closed. No one but you and the investigator should be in the room and the recruiter should not be able to hear your testimony. Hopefully this helps someone who finds themselves in a similar situation in the future.

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