There's been a lot of talk about the upcoming furlough, which can affect your security clearance in tricky and indirect ways. If you have a job that requires clearance or may apply to one in the future, you need to take a close look at your finances, figure out how much the furlough is going to impact you, and plan accordingly. According to a report by Eric Yoder at the Washington Post, if the furlough impacts your ability to pay your bills, it may be a red flag when you apply for renewal. According to Yoder, "Indebtedness is one of the potential indicators of reliability, trustworthiness and judgment that go into a decision on granting or continuing security clearances, which are needed for many federal jobs."
If you are currently in a federal job that requires clearance and you think the furloughs may cause issues with your finances, take these steps:
1. Contact your superiors. An Air Force base has been recorded telling employees to "advise your supervisor if you are having financial issues that may impact your security clearance. Supervisors contact the Special Security Office (SSO) and document concerns/issues that can be considered next time clearance is due." Letting your superiors know what's going on might not help you avoid pay cuts, but will allow you to document that any financial troubles you experience due to the furlough are outside your control.
2. Get a handle on how damaging pay cuts can be. It's easy to look at a few missed days of work and think little of it, but agencies are legally able to force 22 days of unpaid leave between April and September, which equates to a potential maximum 20% cut in pay for half the year. According to Navy guidance, "Employees who encounter financial problems due to a furlough should (1) work with their creditors to maintain their debts in a responsible manner; (2) keep documentation of their financial situation and communications with creditors; and (3) keep their local security office informed if they are experiencing financial problems."
3. Communicate your issues. In the event that your finances do take a hit and you run into some trouble, your best defense against harm to your clearance is communication. The renewal process contains plenty of caveats which give applicants some breathing room in certain situations; Navy guidance says "the individual's actions to responsibly contend with financial problems" will be considered. Contacting your superiors and documenting as much as you can will give you solid evidence of responsibly handling a financial crisis.
4. You still need to make an effort to avoid financial troubles. Letting people know what's going on is one thing, but demonstrating that you've at least attempted to avoid financial difficulty is a must. There are a few ways to obtain general assistance. For example, the Credit Union National Association has said it will make special considerations for loans in light of furloughs. The Federal 401k equivalent will allow employees to reduce their monthly payments and will allow loans or straight withdrawals. Lastly, the Federal Employee education and Assistance Fund assists Federal employees suffering economically, but they have warned that due to the furloughs their ability to assist will be limited.