Talk to my FSO about going for Secret instead of TS? Life story included

Hey all, brand new user here. I have a few questions regarding getting a security clearance for a potential job opportunity. Unfortunately, it requires me to somewhat give you my life story. So lets begin…

So I have been working for a gov contractor for the past few months for a summer internship, so far I really like the work environment and all of my co-workers. They let me on without needing me to apply for a security clearance first because they have loads of unclassified work that I have been chipping away at during my time here. My manager has talked to me about starting the application process for a security clearance before I head back to school in the Fall to continue my Masters degree, expressing that he is interested in keeping me for next summer and possibly full time after I graduate (Dec 2018). Although my SF-86 would by no means be squeaky clean (will get into in a bit), I am pretty confident about my ability to mitigate any concerns for a Secret level clearance. And thats what I thought I would be applying for, until my manager comes to me and tells me he wants to put me in for a TS. His reasoning is more or less that “we might as well” because the process is similar and he doesn’t think it will take much longer. I would say a lot of you probably disagree with that last statement from your experience, but i digress…Anyways, I would not really have a problem with this, and honestly I guess I still don’t, but from what I understand we only really deal with Secret level classifications, and the building is only cleared to hold Secret material and conduct Secret level meetings w/ other contractors and customers anyways. So the TS would basically just be because “we can”. I am just afraid that my slightly blemished past may be put under more scrutiny out of no real necessity. I am considering bringing this concern to my FSO and maybe trying to talk to him about trying for a Secret instead. Would this be a wise decision? I am not worried about being upfront and honest about my past with them at all, though my pride will definitely take a hit. But I can handle that for the chance of a good gig in the future.

So lets dig into my personal history and what will be getting flagged on my SF-86. So I am a 23 year old graduate student almost halfway through my masters degree in an engineering field. When I was about 17- 19yrs old, I used marijuana probably 30+ times with varying frequency. I also took part in underage drinking in my college years, but I would never say I have anything close to a problem. When I was 19 years old, in March of 2014 I was given a citation for possession of marijuana by an officer in Oklahoma while driving back from spring break with some friends. The amount was very small, and the officer was very kind and understanding and decided not to arrest us. He just gave me the citation and we were free to finish our drive back home. I paid a lawyer to keep me from having to appear in court during finals week, and paid my fine like a good boy.

This information becomes even more relevant because later that same year, I was applying for a student co-op position at a nuclear reactor. Because of the nature of the work, I was required to obtain Unescorted Access (UA) to work at the plant. I was forthright and honest on all the disclosure paperwork (similar to SF86 but still a different document), and the power plant set up an interview with a local doctor/therapist so she could learn the nature of my incident and marijuana/alcohol use. By the end of the interview, she said she had no qualms with me working in that particular position and didn’t think I had a problem. I had another short, virtual interview with a psychiatrist at the plant who basically came to the same conclusion. Nonetheless, my offer was rescinded. I was emailed by the HR rep I had been in contact with telling me that they couldn’t hire me based on my failure to pass the required assessments for the position. I requested to know specifically what disqualified me, but never heard back from the rep. I presume it was because the recency of the incident, and NRC regulations state that a UA cannot be denied solely because of an arrest or incident OLDER than a year. Since it was about 6-7 months old they were within their full authority to just deny me the job/UA.

Fast forward until now, no legal incidents at all and I have abstained from illegal drug use, and plan to do so indefinitely.I am very regretful of my young, immature decisions in life. I think I have learned a great deal, and grown up quite a bit in the last 3.5 years. I now only drink alcohol, legally and resonsibly. Now, if you were brave enough to trudge through that wall of text I have a few questions:

-Am I more likely to get denied a TS clearance than a Secret? And if so, should I talk to my FSO about trying to go for a Secret instead?

-Was my incident involving the nuclear plant and UA a denial of a security clearance, and should I list it as so on my SF-86? The background investigation is conducted by the power plant/utility company, and is accompanied by an FBI fingerprint database search. I was never contacted by any adjudicating body, and the HR rep refused to get back to me after multiple times trying to contact her. I am pretty sure this isn’t legal if I was formally denied a clearance, but if they just rescinded my offer I would guess they could get away with this. I obviously passed the drug screening because I was never contacted by an MRO, and the time since my last use was more than sufficient for a urinalysis.

-Should I just go for the TS, despite the possible outcome?

-Should I possibly just finish out the internship and tell them I may pursue other work for next summer/the future? And just look for work that doesn’t require clearance?

I am not super familiar with the process of obtaining a DoD clearance obviously, since I have never had one. If the TS clearance isn’t under any more scrutiny than a plain old Secret for the same issues, then maybe I just shouldn’t worry about it. But clearly I am very nervous about my manager/FSOs reaction when they learn that getting me a clearance might not be as cut and dry as they thought. They performed a third party background check on me for the position, and never mentioned any issues. I was never given an opportunity to disclose criminal stuff before the background investigation, or I would have. I am just worried my manager may be like “Well we probably never would have let you on in the first place had we known this” or something similar. Im assuming the citation didn’t show up because it happened in a very rural county which may not be represented in the national criminal database their third party investigator uses. Anyways, thats my story. I hope someone reads it and can offer some solid advice. Thanks in advance.

I hate to bump my own post, but any advice or insight would help me. I really don’t want this to get buried as there are a bunch of really sharp people around here that I think could give me some solid advice.

It matters not whether the level is TS or Secret as far as the adjudication of issues. The only difference is the scope of investigation and the fact that references and sources are interviewed in person for a TS. The issues you have can be easily mitigated, but it depends on the agency for whom you are working for and any specific thresholds they may have. It does not sound like you were denied a clearance, rather just not processed for a position that required unescorted access to a facility. Since you did not work for them, there is no need to list them in the SF-86. I would say you have a better then fair chance at being granted either Secret or TS.

Thats good news. Thanks for the info. But FYI, I never did work for the coop, but I did accept the offer letter. I don’t know if this changes anything.

Also, should I still mention the unescorted access stuff during the personal interview?

Full disclosure is always the best policy even if not specifically asked for. That way later on down the road if you ever have to take a poly you will have a clear conscious.


So is there really a point in not putting it on the Sf-86? Would waiting to bring it up during the interview lengthen the process anymore?

Marko nailed it. Again. Over report instead of under report. If you disclosed the entire and honest breakdown of events I would have no problem submitting you and feel more confident than fair you would clear. You may need sign a conduct letter which simply states you understand that conduct isn’t allowed while cleared. But you would clear. Then you need hold fast and true to your statement of letting drug use go. Put it behind you as youthful indiscretion. I have submitted and successfully cleared numerous people with recreational high school and college drug use. My client standard is 12 months no recreational use, age dependent. Fresh out of high school or college? Youthful indiscretion. Pass age 24 - 26…they may want 18 months. If you experimented with Ritalin or Adderal to study they may want 24 months of no drug use. The older you get the more stringent they are. If you are 50…likely you need 3 years no use as you knew it was wrong in the first place. If it is a solid 3 years behind you…I say it is history. Don’t hide from it. Don’t shy away. Just walk in like a boss and own it. But I do recommend showing humility during discussions with the investigator.

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Thanks amberbunny, I really appreciate the positive assurance and advice. I will definitely own up to everything in full.

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