Security Clearance Holder Ranks Grow; NSA & CIA Lead Denials/Revocations

By on October 14, 2012 in News

Even as the nation reduces its roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, the government’s need for people who can be trusted with sensitive information is not abating. Illustrative of this ever-growing demand for trustworthy workers, the ranks of federal employees and contractors who held a security clearance rose by 3.3 percent in the 2011 fiscal year to 4,863,552, according to a new report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Despite this growth in the number of people holding security clearances, intelligence community agencies did not grant this status to everyone. For the first time, the ODNI revealed the denial and revocation rates at seven agencies with authority to conduct security clearance investigations or adjudications.

The NSA topped the list, denying 8 percent and revoking 1.6 percent of the security clearance cases it adjudicated in the 2011 fiscal year. Following it was the CIA, with a 5.3 percent denial rate and a 0.5 percent revocation rate. Next on the list was the National Reconnaissance Office, with a 3.8 percent denial rate and 0.4 percent revocation rate. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency actually had a zero percent denial rate. The NGA does not perform revocations. The DEA and Departments of Homeland Security, Energy, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force were not included in these denial/revocation rate statistics.

It is always disheartening to hear that a federal employee or contractor had his or her security clearance denied or revoked, because with the loss of this status these workers lose out on good, high-paying jobs. Depending on the level of security clearance, agencies will conduct reinvestigations every 15, 10, or five years. When an investigator uncovers any information that calls into question an employee’s trustworthiness, such as financial, foreign influence, or drug abuse concerns, the agency will likely issue a Letter of Intent or Statement of Reasons (LOI/SOR) detailing its intention to revoke the employee’s clearance. Consequently, the employee may be placed on indefinite suspension until the adjudication is completed. A termination notice will likely follow a revocation. Therefore, it is crucial for employees who receive an LOI/SOR to immediately recruit the assistance of an experienced national security law attorney to fight for them at an administrative hearing.

At agencies such as the FBI and NRO, foreign influence concerns was the top single factor behind security clearance cases that had been open for at least a year. Federal employees and contractors need to know that in some cases these concerns can be overcome. They could, for example, highlight any honorable military service or how they have casual and infrequent interactions with family members living abroad. Recipients of an SOR have between 20 and 45 days to respond, so they should not delay in contacting a national security law attorney.

© 2016 Mathew B. Tully, Esq.. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Mathew B. Tully, Esq..

About the Author

Mathew B. Tully is a founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. He concentrates his practice on representing federal government employees and military personnel and can be reached at To schedule a meeting with one of the firm’s federal employment law attorneys call 202-787-1900. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.

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  1. steve5656546346 says:

    “It is always disheartening to hear that a federal employee or contractor had his or her security clearance denied or revoked, because with the loss of this status these workers lose out on good, high-paying jobs.”

    Not sure where that sentence comes from.  The Federal government is not a jobs program:  we are public servants.  Remember?

    The public deserves trustworthy employees in those good, high-paying jobs–because they are the ones paying them.  The denial/revocation rate is probably too low in general–although, the government being the government, there are no doubt unjust denials as well.

  2. Management Attorney says:

    This is a very sensitive issue.  Of course, we don’t want security risks to have access to classified information.  But those of us in the business know that the determination of what positions require a clearance and the decisions to grant, deny, or revoke a clearance can be very subjective.  Security officials will say, at first, that these decisions are formulaic, by the numbers.  Upon digging deeper, some of them become very arbitrary, reflecting the personal biases of a single personnel security adjudicator.  

    • whitelight56 says:

       Yes, EO 12968 is designed to be ambiguous. However, no one is denied without secondary review by 2nd or 1st lline supervisors.

    • Fed Peasant says:

      I agree.  Rank, seniority, & popularity (favortism) are occurances for selective enforcement.

    • BigMark says:

      Anything run by committee is going to be a boondoggal, i.e. the US Govt. So why would anyone expect these agencies that use people with a security clearance to be any different? Especially those that answer to Congress?