Protecting Your Clearance When Money Is Tight

Couple stresses over finances.

There are plenty of reasons why responsible security clearance holders may experience financial hardship, a government shutdown being one of them. If you find yourself in this precarious and unfortunate situation, your continued employment depends on keeping your finances in order. Missing payments can seriously damage a security clearance, so communicate with your superiors every step of the way to avoid this pitfall.

WASHINGTON -- With such a large number of civilians possessing security clearances, including many workers in the space and cyber theaters, leaders want the civilian force to know the steps to take if financial hardships are incurred during furloughs.

Related: Search for security clearance jobs.

"If you find yourself in a situation where financial problems or significant debt are a concern to you, it is best to let the chain of command know early and enable them to help you work through the problem," said Maj. Neil Whelden, security and special programs oversight officer.

If a financial issue is caught early, Air Force teammates are in place to help, Whelden said.

According to the White House's Information Security Oversight Office, there are conditions that could mitigate security concerns.

Those include "... conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person's control (e.g., loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency or a death, divorce or separation), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances," according to the memorandum titled Adjudicative Guidelines. "The individual has a reasonable basis to dispute the legitimacy of the past-due debt which is the cause of the problem and provides documented proof to substantiate the basis of the dispute or provides evidence of actions to resolve the issue."

Air Force officials offer the following tips to mitigate short- and long-term strain. Their recommendations are:

  • Work with creditors to maintain debt in a responsible manner
  • Keep documentation of financial situations and communications with creditors
  • Keep the local security office informed of any emerging financial problems

Proactive communication between members and financial institutions is key to ensuring significant debt does not pile up, which could hurt a security clearance, according to Whelden.

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"Personnel should reach out to banks and creditors to renegotiate debt terms or mitigate debt impact," he said. "Many banks are willing to change terms and defer payments for furloughed employees."

In addition to the suggestions above, several issues should be reported to the unit's security officer, including:

  • Bankruptcy or required credit counseling
  • Inability to pay federal, state or other taxes
  • Delinquency on alimony or child support
  • Judgment for failure to meet financial obligations
  • Liens placed against the holder
  • Delinquency on a federal debt
  • Repossessions of property
  • Suspension of accounts, charge-offs or cancellation for failure to pay
  • Evictions
  • Garnished wages
  • More than 120 days delinquent on any debt

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