Very Confused about something my personnel security specialist said need advice please

Hi new here! I need advice on something. So here is my story.

I am applying for clearance (obviously) and there is a hold on me being granted interim clearance cause of old debts that I need to show 3 months of consecutive payments on. I am taking care of that and signed up with a credit counseling program. Its just going to take 3 months to be able provide them that documentation…So thats not my issue…

my issue is that I asked my personnel security specialist if the background investigation was still moving forward while I’m making these payments (knowing that a whole person concept investigation could come out in my favor since this debt is the only red flag I have and I am showing a good faith effort in paying it back) and if I am going to need to get fingerprints done. She responded that they are only pre-screening and only an employee that is onboarded or “hired” is sent to do fingerprints for the background investigation. To me this doesn’t seem right… I feel I should be given the chance to see if I can get clearance with the background investigation. Even if the interim is on hold… my tentative written offer says the offer is contingent on me being able to secure and maintain Secret Clearance not being able to secure interim secret clearance before an official offer can be made.

so my question is… is this right? do they not start the formal investigation until the person has been onboarded? Or should I be trying to make calls (like to my HR person or supervisor) about this to get the background investigation started?

Thanks in advance for any advice!!

I’m only familiar with DoD TS investigations - which won’t begin without fingerprints, to the best of my knowledge (FSO for 4 1/2 years). Usually the print upload initiates the SAC, they run the prints, and interim TS is granted based on what they find electronically, and final is granted based on what they find in the field investigation. I’m sorry I don’t know how much a Secret clearance varies from this.

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Your debt will flag in an investigation and they are ensuring your issue is good enough to make it through the process before they spend $3-5 K for an investigation. You CANNOT get an interim clearance without first having an OPEN investigation going. Do what they say or you’ll be headed back out the door you came in.


For lack of a better word you failed the pre-screening. Why would they spend any more money on you until you show you have fixed the issue. Fix the issue like they asked and move on.


I am fixing the issue… what is confusing me is that from what I have read online about the clearance process is that background investigation and interim happen at the same time… the security dept of the place im applying to forwards the sf86 to the agency and at the same time they are reviewing it to grant interim clearance… but from what my PSS said it sounds like they won’t forward my sf86 and have the agency start the bg investigation until I have interim clearance… is my understanding of the process incorrect and interim is required before the agency starts the investigation?

Did you fill out paperwork prior to the SF?

Yeah I filled out a ton of paperwork and took some certification trainings…

Perhaps some of that paperwork allowed them to do a basic background check and they found the financial issues.

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In other words, you were found unsuitable to begin work based on past and/or current financial irresponsibility. The PSU wants to see documentation from you that shows you have been responsible toward your debts.

There are many decisions made that investigators have no part in which give the agency an idea of your “risk rating” in bringing you on as an employee (or contractor).

This process is all about risk management, and currently, you are too high of a risk to begin your duties until you can show and prove there are mitigators to the risk(s) you present.


They found the financial issues with the SF86… i didn’t hear from my PSS until after I filled out my SF86… she emailed me asking for copies of my credit reports and after that she said I needed to resolve the debts before they will approve interim clearance… but she says the formal investigation wont happen until I submit those documents… I don’t know it just confused me because I thought the interim and investigation would be active at the same time…

You can get screened out by security manager/FSO. I did it all the time. Those taking my advice, eventually were submitted, and cleared. This sounds like all is good except that Bill. Once you show progress, either 3 months, or borrow from family to wipe it out, they won’t submit. Most interims are approved based on fast system checks and info on sf86. Yes honesty seems to hurt at times but it would be caught if it moved forward to clearance office, you would be denied interim, and require a completed BI…read 06 to 14 month wait. Clear up the bill, keep good records, they submit, you get interim, start work, collect paycheck, full BI begins. Interview happens and you produce all documents speaking to these debts and a now much improved credit score. Scores aren’t what is judged, but it tells a story. They are more interested in payment history. Anyone can make one payment. Two looks better…but three is a pattern of behavior positively indicating you are taking on responsibility. That…is how you prove worthy of trust. Living up to obligations. You promised to pay…you need promise to respect rules for classified. Pay the debt and demonstrate you live up to your promises.


Thank you that clarifies a lot.

While I agree with a lot of what is written here FSO’s need to remember one rule - you are not an adjudicator and you are not to “screen anyone’s investigation and make any sort of determination that is not under your wheel house of training.” The only people that are allowed to screen an individuals background investigation paperwork is the organization designated for that - not the FSO. Our job as FSOs is to ensure the forms necessary for the background investigation are correctly and thoroughly completed, all the steps for the background investigation (including fingerprints) are completed and that everything is submitted. The cost of the investigation is not incumbent upon a decision the FSO makes either. That is a cost absorbed the customer requesting the background investigation i.e., DHS, DOD, DOT, DOE, NSA, etc. If the only background investigation you provided was the SF86, the FSO should have reviewed it for completeness. He could see what was on the form and “advised you that you may not get the clearance because of something, and advised you to fix it,” but he should have completed the process and allowed it to work through the designated organization for final adjudication. He/she is not a Background Investigator nor an adjudicator and has not right to make this decision. It is a process not owned by any one company but rather by the U.S. Government and that’s where the decision should remain.


Respectfully, I don’t believe in an “all in or all out” definition. Then again, being a “Security Manager,” as opposed to FSO, may be what gives wiggle room. My previous 10 years in that role involved security interviews after the department manager interview. It was exactly my role pre screening, rejecting bad candidates, sending forth completed forms, and dropping non responsive or folks I knew would not clear. That I grew clearance rates from 40% to 99% demonstrates very good screening decisions for my work site, company, and client. Understanding how to improve people’s chances, compassion, and communication helped a great deal of people understand how to improve and get cleared. By contract language I was required to screen and only submit viable candidates and that was part and parcel of my metric from the government in personal award fee scores.

Security manager vs FSO…Tomayto…Tomahto…?


Unless you are a FSO for a private org or DoD Contractor and then if the VP or CEO tells you to screen eligible employees and weed out the ones with SF 86 issues that you don’t feel is a fit for the company, that’s what you do. Pre screen or pre adjudicate. It’s perfectly legal…

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A “fit for the company” doesn’t sound legal or ethical to me. It makes me wonder what the “fitness qualifications” are… male, white, protestant? Sounds like an invitation to a lawsuit to me.

“Fit” as in the adjudicative guidelines fit… Private Companies can set their own pre qualification criteria. This happens everyday…

Matter of fact, pre qualification happens in the federal sector as well…

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In fact, there are/used to be screener companies that contractors used to help select candidates. Some states restrict the practice.

The practice would reduce some of the cases I’ve worked, such as the Subject who was going to trial for embezzling from his employer/customers (this guy literally screamed at me that the reason he was fired and the trial were none of my (fill in the obvious words) business), or the Subject who was still going through the court system and treatment for admitted alcohol and sexual predator charges.

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I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I’ve often thought sometimes employers submit Subjects who they know will NEVER get a clearance and get the job… but the companies are shy about rejecting people and let the adjudicator’s do it for them. I understand the need for some specific personal qualifications for prescreening but I don’t believe just because it’s done all the time and it’s legal mean that it’s right or that it doesn’t promote discrimination.

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