Self-Reporting Security Clearance Issues

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

Our law firm represents security clearance holders in security clearance investigations
and appeals. We also represent individuals that need to determine how and what to report involving new security concerns. One of the frequently misunderstood issues is a security clearance holder’s continuing duty to report on themselves for newly arising security concerns. In other words, self-reporting usually involves reporting a security incident in between the 5-10 year period for re-investigation. Federal agencies are slowly moving towards a system of continuous evaluation for clearance holders, but there is still a major duty for a clearance holder to self-report significant security concerns that arise between investigations. This can pose a problem where a person is essentially told to report on themselves. It causes many conflicts for clients.


Self-reporting security concerns is often a misunderstood issue by federal employees and government contractors. Many employees, understandably, do not want to report themselves for new security concerns that arise and either don’t think about reporting new issues that arise (or report them) in the context of later completing a new SF-86 or e-QIP application during the next background investigation. It is very important to understand when issues should be reported and to do so promptly in many cases.

Potential Reportable Security Concerns

There are many potential types of security concerns (infinite combinations) that may need to be reported to the government contractor’s / federal employee’s security office. Each federal agency that issues security clearances offers their own guidance, which can vary, but mostly remains the same. Some security issues are harder to evaluate than others when it comes to deciding whether or not to self-report them, which is why counsel is often needed. It is often good advice to reprot Some examples of security concerns that may need to be reported as soon as possible include:

1. An arrest (battery, assault, DUI, major traffic, any type of criminal issue, etc);

2. Marriage to a citizen of another country (foreign influence);

3. Foreign influence ties to another country (usually country of birth);

4. Excessive unpaid debts (or bankruptcy);

5. Certain civil judgments or litigation;

6. Use of illegal drugs or abuse of legal drugs;

7. Contact by a foreign country; and

8. A wide variety of other security concerns (too many to list).

The Results of Reporting a Security Concern

The first step in self-reporting a security concern is for the employee to notify their security officer. Once reported, it may take some time for the security officer to respond. Additional documentation may then be needed from the security office and/or an interview may then be needed. As a result of self-reporting, a contractor or federal employee may need to deal with ramifications of a clearance review or investigation.

This is not always the case and many incidents are noted simply for the individual’s security file and nothing else negative occurs. However, not reporting a security issue, when it is required (or viewed as required), can create a greater likelihood that the individual will lose their security clearance because they will have to deal with both the underlying issue of concern and also the fact that they have not reported the incident previously. In many cases, self-reporting can be viewed as a mitigating factor in the clearance adjudication process.


When facing security clearance or employment issues it can be important to have the assistance and advice of counsel. If you need assistance with a clearance or employment issue, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or at to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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