SF 86 and Failure to Disclose

This question has been in the back of my mind for a while:

In August I had finished a three month legal internship with an agency that required me to fill an SF 86 back in February. It feels like a cliche, but this is what happened – I failed to disclose marijuana use. It was one time (just one inhale even) between college and law school. I do not intend to ever try it again. Out of panic I did not disclose the use because law school puts the fear of God into about how important it is to do well, land interviews, etc etc and I was terrified I would stop my career before it started for one single use.

Moving forward, after really struggling with what to do, I know now to be honest moving forward. However I never revealed my non-disclosure to the agency I was with and at this point do not see what good it would do because my clearance was so low and the internship is over. My goals are to go on commission with a branch of the JAG corps when I graduate in a year and a half or work with a letter agency which means more background checks.

My specific question is: what are the most likely outcomes for my first career moves when I admit that I had a single use of marijuana, no future intention of use, and failed to disclose on my first SF 86 out of naive panic on future SF 86/JAG applications/other forms to receive a Common Access Card/higher clearance background checks.

I plan on speaking with a recruiter and disclosing everything moving forward, I just want to know if I should have a career plan B & C!

If you already failed to disclose on SF86 and it was intentional, it does not bode well for you. Once you start down a place of dishonesty, it is easy to continue with the behavior and this is of concern to these agencies.

Always have another option, especially in the clearance world.

You have made your work a little harder but you haven’t destroyed your career or any such thing. Time and youth mitigate mild (in your case, VERY mild) drug use.

I concur with Ed. But you will not need worry about the puff…as much as you need focus on falsifying a government document. You get a big pass for those years concerning drug use. Not being honest though gives everyone pause even if we think back to that age and how we too may have made dumb decisions. When do you think you may need fill out a new SF86? How much time passed between the first and the new SF86? I have a pending current employee who required a new SF86. On it he will disclose a one of use of MJ. I believe he will be held to a higher standard as he was not young, and he was cleared at the time. He used with a girlfriend who he since removed from his life. It has been over 18 months…but I think we may lose him and his clearance will be revoked. This client may request he complete a poly even for Secret to verify he is telling the truth. I made sure he is aware of this. Right now I am in the wait and see mode.

I hope it works out for the employee in the end.

I do not know when I will fill out a new one: I am applying for Summer 2019 positions now and am very interested in interning with Coast Guard or Air Force and am going to be in touch with recruiters about it.

I was considering waiting until after graduation and taking a non-clearance internship so that there is more time, albeit only of a year, between me and the first SP 86. As sincere as I believe I am being, I think it would look more sincere with that gap of time rather than admitting my mistake and turning around and reapplying in less than a year. Also by the time I graduate, that will be three years since the time I used and I know that is the minimum number of years some agencies ask for. That would make it about early to mid 2020 because I would be applying to go on commission with the AF JAG corps that spring before graduation.

What I see that is most problematic for you is that, as an attorney, you intentionally lied on an official document under penalty of felony. I don’t have to explain to you how that affects your legal career if said lie is ever discovered…

1 Like

A few comments . . . A recruiter will likely tell you to omit it again. Don’t listen. If you just finished an internship and are applying for another in 2019, you MAY not have to fill out another SF86 since it has been less than two years since your last cleared work. I’m not sure what that means from a standpoint of your requirement to self report.

Lying on your first time around, for such minor use and while you are still in school may be fairly easily mitigated. Lying a second time, while you were already cleared, would not be.


Okay this is a mistake on my part and a lack of reading my documents – I actually most likely filled out a SF 85. I had a lot of restrictions on what I could see and hear. How does that factor in everything?

What restrictions are you referring to? Restrictions on the job site where you needed leave the room when classified was discussed? Or limitations on what you saw when filling out the form? The SF86, favorably adjudicated, and a position requiring a clearance is what gives you access to classified. Positions of trust are usually given with the SF85. Big concur with Ed on not listening to bad advice of a recruiter. Plenty of military folks found out the hard way putting untrue info down so the recruiter could make his or her stats for the month. Learn from this.