For many who are taking the FSOT, you probably noticed a little blurb about acquiring a security clearance. However, like most, you probably just expected that this wouldn’t be a problem and you should be fine. But are you?
According to a recent State Department survey, 2-4% of those who pass the selection process end up not receiving their security clearance and therefore cannot be selected as a FSO. Do you think that those 2-4% had illegal activities on their record and had questionable backgrounds? Or is it possible that they didn’t fully understand the requirements of the Security Clearance and failed to acquire a top-secret clearance based on ignorance of the process.
Therefore, to effectively help you mitigate failing the security clearance or wasting your time applying to be a FSO, we wanted to discuss with you what a security clearance actually entails and some of the pitfalls that many applicants run into when conducting their security clearance. You may be surprised to find out what is acceptable and what actually isn’t.
What is a FSO Security Clearance
The process of getting a Top Secret (TS) clearance actually costs the government over $16,000 on average. To affectively do a security clearance, the government has to hire a private investigation corporation to do a full check of your history. They go through and verify just about every aspect of your life and check to verify that you do not have any “questionable” activities.
This investigation will go as far back as 15 years, and will require you to provide proof of every place you worked and lived during those 15 years. You will need to provide contacts that can verify your status during that time and be prepared to have them actually call them. These people cannot be family members.
Pitfalls of Potential FSOs in Applying for a Security Clearance
When reading the State Department’s description of a security clearance, it is easy for me to see why so many potential FSOs fail this portion of the selection process. In most cases, they don’t expect what will be checked and what is of importance. Here are a couple of examples where potential FSOs have failed:
- Foreclosures and Short Sales: Did you get hit by the market crash a couple of years ago? Sadly, short sales and foreclosures were common and having such a hit on your credit score can affect your ability to get a clearance. Someone with a low credit score or money problems will be more likely to accept a bribe or sell information.
- Foreign Family Members: Are you related to a foreign family member? Is that person from a country that is considered a threat? Just by association, the investigating officer will have to spend more time checking them and their background. So make sure they don’t have any skeletons in the closet. If the person is your wife or husband, then make sure they are a citizen of the United States and have all the paperwork inline. An example of this was that my friend’s brother was born in Colombia. At the time of his investigation, he brother was only 6 years old. It still became a problem.
- Poor Credit Score: Did you have your identity stolen? If so, then hopefully you have already done things to improve it or have proof that this was from identity theft. Prior to commencing your Security Clearance, I would recommend you get a copy of your credit score and verify that everything is good to go. You don’t want any surprises popping up on the investigating officer.
- False Information: Everyone is probably rolling their eyes in thinking that this is common sense. But it isn’t as straightforward as you think. You will be asked a lot of questions and if you answer things wrongly (even without intent to lie), and the investigating officer finds out, then your credibility will be called into question. Try your very best to give the correct/true answer and take your time in filling out the form. Don’t just skip something because you can’t remember the details. If that is the case, then fill it in as such and inform them that you can’t remember. This is better then leaving it up to them to figure it out….or find out. Also, don’t try to hide something. If you have something on your record and you fear that this will hurt your chances, you best chance is to be upfront about it. It looks worse when they find it without you telling them.
This pitfalls do not mean that you will fail because you have one of these. The investigation is trying to decide whether or not you can handle Top-Secret material. However, if you have a series of these things or something major, then you will find that you will not pass and therefore will not be granted a TS clearance. Without such a clearance, you cannot be selected as a FSO.
What Can You Do to Improve your Chances
So now that you know what a security clearance entails and what some of the pitfalls are, here are a couple of things that you can do so as to improve your chances:
- Never lie
- Inform your potential contacts that you will have an investigation and that a investigator might contact them. Prepare them for this.
- Scrub your social media platforms, and increase your security protection rights to them all.
- Check your credit score and make corrections.
- If you have debt, try to minimize it as much as possible. Fiscal management is important.
Hopefully if you do the following steps and don’t have any major incidents on your legal record, then you shouldn’t become apart of the 2-4%. Be smart and be honest and you should do fine.