Contrary to popular opinion, the category of financial considerations encompasses far more than just the possibility that an individual would compromise classified information in exchange for money to either pay off debts or to personally enrich themselves.
Administrative judges and appeal boards tend to be more sympathetic to individuals that went into debt or face financial difficulties due to crises such as a major illness or a bitter divorce. However, there is far less sympathy for individuals that overspend, gamble, or generally are reckless with their finances. Security clearance decisions in this category will hinge upon whether an individual has exercised poor judgment and acted recklessly in his/her spending decisions.
DOHA looks for a “meaningful track record” of debt reduction by payment of debts. An individual need not show that he/she has paid off each debt enumerated in the SOR. What is needed is that an individual has established “a plan to resolve his financial problems and taken significant actions to implement that plan.”
The Concern. Failure or inability to live within one’s means, satisfy debts, and meet financial obligations may indicate poor self-control, lack of judgment, or unwillingness to abide by rules and regulations, all of which can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information. An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds. Compulsive gambling is a concern as it may lead to financial crimes including espionage. Affluence that cannot be explained by known sources of income is also a security concern. It may indicate proceeds from financially profitable criminal acts.
Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:
(a) inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts;
(b) indebtedness caused by frivolous or irresponsible spending and the absence of any evidence of willingness or intent to pay the debt or establish a realistic plan to pay the debt.
(c) a history of not meeting financial obligations;
(d) deceptive or illegal financial practices such as embezzlement, employee theft, check fraud, income tax evasion, expense account fraud, filing deceptive loan statements, and other intentional financial breaches of trust;
(e) consistent spending beyond one’s means, which may be indicated by excessive indebtedness, significant negative cash flow, high debt-to-income ratio, and/or other financial analysis;
(f) financial problems that are linked to drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling problems, or other issues of security concern.
(g) failure to file annual Federal, state, or local income tax returns as required or the fraudulent filing of the same;
(h) unexplained affluence, as shown by a lifestyle or standard of living, increase in net worth, or money transfers that cannot be explained by subject’s known legal sources of income;
(i) compulsive or addictive gambling as indicated by an unsuccessful attempt to stop gambling, “chasing losses” (i.e. increasing the bets or returning another day in an effort to get even), concealment of gambling losses, borrowing money to fund gambling or pay gambling debts, family conflict or other problems caused by gambling.
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:
(a) the behavior happened so long ago, was so infrequent, or occurred under such circumstances that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual’s current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment;
(b) the conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person’s control (e.g. loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, or a death, divorce or separation), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances;
(c) the person has received or is receiving counseling for the problem and/or there are clear indications that the problem is being resolved or is under control;
(d) the individual initiated a good-faith effort to repay overdue creditors or otherwise resolve debts;
(e) the individual has a reasonable basis to dispute the legitimacy of the past-due debt which is the cause of the problem and provides documented proof to substantiate the basis of the dispute or provides evidence of actions to resolve the issue;
(f) the affluence resulted from a legal source of income.