The Duty of a Security Clearance Holder to Self-Report Incidents

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

Security clearance holders who occupy and who hold access to classified information are expected to self-report changes or incidents that may impact their security clearances to security officials. Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 4 is a good guide for clearance holders to determine whether a new incident or development triggers a duty to self-report. While self-reporting is mandatory, it is sometimes hard to determine what exactly needs to be reported and what does not. Usually, it is much better to be proactive in disclosing reportable events than for them to be discovered later. Disclosing these issues prior to them being discovered can be considered to be a mitigating factor.

Each federal security officer and federal agency has different Self-Reporting procedures. If you need to self-report an incident that occurs, such as being arrested for a traffic-related issue, you will need to contact your security officer. However, it is often important to obtain security clearance advice from a security clearance lawyer if there is a question about reporting the issues.

Examples of Issues that can Trigger a Duty to Self-Report

The following are just a few examples which can trigger duties to report yourself:

Loss or Classified Information or Technology – Inadvertent or accidental loss or compromise of classified or other sensitive information because the first priority in such a situation is to regain control of the classified material;
Change in Relationship Status – Reporting marriage and/or other close relationships;
Foreign Contacts – Reporting the development of unusual or substantial foreign contacts, especially those where classified or sensitive information is sought or where the person is the target of potential coercion;
Arrests – Reporting any arrest. It does not matter whether or not charges were ultimately filed it is important to report any arrest and/or domestic orders;
Financial Issues – Reporting adverse financial circumstances such as bankruptcy, tax liens or unusual adverse financial debt issues;
Changes in Psychological Health – significant changes in mental health conditions;
Foreign Travel – travel outside the United States (other than for official business) should be reported and a security briefing may be required prior to travel.

There are countless other types of incidents that may need to be reported to a security officer. The ones listed above are some incidents where self-reporting is usually expected. If you have any questions, please speak to a lawyer that handles security clearance matters. Furthermore, clearance holders with access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or selected Special Access Programs (SAPs) may have additional self-reporting requirements.


When a government contractor, federal employee or military member is in need of a security clearance lawyer for issues involving self-reporting it is important to do so early in the process.  Our law firm advises individuals in the security clearance process. We can be contacted at or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.  Our Facebook page is located here and our Twitter account here.

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