Understanding Adjudicative Guideline G for Security Clearance

Security clearance lawyer John Griffith explains Guideline G of the Adjudicative Guidelines for obtaining government security clearance.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – While alcohol often is treated as a tool to help people loosen up, have fun, or relax, it’s no secret that alcohol has been the culprit in lost jobs and failed marriages.

A person’s alcohol consumption is a potential hindrance in obtaining government security clearance. It is addressed in Guideline G- Alcohol Consumption- of Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

Let’s face it- drinking alcohol to excess clouds your judgment and often results in actions that might not have been done had you been sober at the time. That is why excessive alcohol use can prevent you from getting or maintaining a security clearance.

“The government’s concern regarding Guideline G is about alcohol use impairing your judgment, preventing you from controlling your impulses, and rendering you unreliable and untrustworthy,” says John Griffith, a security clearance lawyer.

Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying, according to the U.S. Department of State, include:

  • Alcohol-related incidents that happen outside of work, such as DUI, fights, abusing your children or spouse, and disturbing the peace.
  • Alcohol-related incidents at work, such as reporting to work drunk or impaired, or drinking on the job.
  • Habitual or binge drinking to the point of impaired judgment.
  • A diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence by a qualified medical professional.
  • Evaluation of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence by a licensed clinical social worker who is a staff member of a recognized alcohol treatment program.
  • Relapsing after previously being diagnosed with alcohol abuse or dependence and having completed a rehabilitation program.
  • Failing to follow a court order regarding alcohol education, evaluation, treatment, or abstinence.

“You don’t have to be diagnosed as an alcoholic for your drinking-related activities to prevent you from getting or keeping your security clearance,” Griffith says.

As is the case with all of the Adjudicative Guidelines, there are mitigating circumstances for Guideline G:

  • A great deal of time has passed, the behavior was infrequent, the behavior happened under circumstances that are unlikely to recur, or the behavior doesn’t cast doubt on your current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment.
  • You’ve acknowledged your alcoholism or abuse, you’ve provided evidence of actions taken to overcome this problem, and you have established a pattern of abstinence (if alcohol dependent) or responsible use (if an alcohol abuser).

These are just two of the mitigating circumstances. You can read all of them here. Mitigating circumstances helped one applicant obtain his security clearance recently. In a decision dated Jan. 14, the government granted security clearance to an applicant who had previously received a Statement of Reasons that detailed the government’s concerns in granting clearance.

The applicant had refused a chemical test in 2005 and been convicted of DUI in 2009. He attended counseling from September 2009 to January 2010. Since then, the applicant had experienced no other alcohol-related issues, and he had gone on to complete a master’s degree, according to information available on a Department of Defense website.

In her ruling, Administrative Judge Elizabeth Matchinski stated: “There is credible evidence of Applicant’s rehabilitation over the last four plus years. In addition to the maturation that comes with aging, he has had alcohol counseling. Applicant has demonstrated professionalism and diligence in his work for a defense contractor, while also pursuing a graduate degree. He owns his home and is now happily married to a supportive spouse.”

These are the kinds of factors that should be considered when a security clearance applicant is issued a Statement of Reasons, Griffith says.

“When security clearance is a job requirement and you’ve been issued a Statement of Reasons, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney who specializes in this area,” he says. “A security clearance attorney can help you identify all of your mitigating circumstances so you have the best chance possible at getting clearance.”