One Drink is Too Many and 100 is Not Enough

In most cases, a federal employee who is an alcoholic will not be able to keep a federal security clearance. In an unusual case, one federal employee kept his security clearance despite years of excessive drinking.

Should an employee who was drinking 3-4 beers each weekday and 6 – 12 beers each day on the weekend be able to stay in a federal job that requires a security clearance?

Normally, the answer is "no." According to the DoD Office of Hearings and Appeals Adjudicative Guidelines, security clearances are revoked for an alcoholic unless the employee has abstained from alcohol for at least one year, completed a substance abuse program and demonstrated other substantial traits that indicate he has been rehabilitated.

But, apparently, that is not always the case. The Personnel Security Appeals Board has ordered the reinstatement of a security clearance to an engineer in the Naval Sea Systems Command who had been drinking excessively for a number of years.

According to the decision from Administrative Judge Kathryn Moen Braeman, the federal employee meets the mitigation guidelines for alchol consumption. The employee’s attorney, Josh F. Bowers, says that "a ‘perfect storm’ of favorable facts convinced the Board the Appellant was unlike any other employee and deserved the continued trust of the United States Government."

While the decision was issued over a year ago, the employee has now authorized the release of the decision to celebrate a year of sobriety and continued career success.

The Navy had concerns about his ability to work in a job that required a security clearance because of his drinking problem. His alcohol related problems had been going on for a number of years and he had periodically sought assistance in reducing his consumption of alcohol. His supervisor had referred him to the employee assistance program. His security clearance was revoked in 2005. In revoking his security clearance, the agency concluded:

"You failed to sufficiently mitigate the personal conduct, alcohol consumption, and emotional, mental and personality disorders concerns because you have demonstrated a long history of excessive alcohol cohsumption and failure to follow through with medical advice…."

The AJ concluded the employee did not have any documented incidents of alcohol related problems. He finally stopped drinking back in the Fall of 2005 and sought assistance from the employee assistance program and Alcoholics Anomymous (AA). When these efforts were not enough to alleviate the Navy’s concern about his security clearance, he began attending a hospital out-patient treatment program.

She was also impressed with the appellant’s contention that he did not recognize the serious nature of his drinking until it became clear that the agency was going to revoke his security clearance. His positive response to the agency’s action led to the conclusion that "he has complied with all treatment recommendations and has performed in an outstanding manner in work assignments and has the enthusiastic backing of his chain of command."

His attorney observed that "With the exception of his extremely excessive drinking and denial of alcoholilsm, my client was a good husband, dedicated father, contributor to the community and an outstanding Federal employee. Once he finally accepted that he was an alcoholic, he dedicated himself to addressing his illness with the same intensity that resulted in success in all other areas of his life."




About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47