Security Clearance Revocation vs. Suspension: Understanding the Differences and Outcomes

March 29, 2024
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Life can be messy and result in unintended consequences. For security clearance holders, this means that they could be facing a suspension or revocation of their security clearance. If your clearance has been suspended or revoked, a federal security clearance attorney can help protect your career. 

What Is a Revocation? 

A revocation is the cancellation or withdrawal of your security clearance. In other words, the federal government has decided that you should no longer have access to its sensitive information. Before your clearance can be revoked, however, there is an investigation followed by a review of the findings. Some of the reasons why your clear may be revoked include the following: 

  • Criminal activity
  • Personal conduct that calls your judgment or integrity into question
  • Security issues concerning your trustworthiness, loyalty, or vulnerability to blackmail or coercion
  • Failure to follow security protocols such as mishandling of classified information
  • Financial issues such as excessive debt, delinquent accounts, or involvement in questionable financial activities

Obviously, revocation of your security clearance can have a profound impact on your career. If you are worried that your clearance will be revoked, you do not need to wait until it is revoked to take action. A federal security clearance attorney can help you as soon as you are under investigation and advocate for a fair outcome. 

You Can Appeal Your Revocation

You have the right to appeal the revocation, but only if you take immediate action. Understanding the process is key to getting a fair outcome.  

The first step in the process is the issuance of a letter of intent (or “LOI) to revoke your clearance. This will include a statement or reasons (“SOR”) that provides the basis of their decision. During this time period, your clearance is not actually revoked, but it is suspended. 

The appeal process will differ depending on whether you are a contractor, a DoD employee, a military employee, and other factors. In most cases, you will need to at least file a written rebuttal to the SOR. In some cases, you may be entitled to a hearing. The bottom line is that your clearance will almost certainly be revoked if you do not take immediate action in response to the LOI. 

If, despite your efforts, your clearance is revoked, you then have the right to appeal the decision to the Personnel Security Appeals Board. Again, the process will vary depending on your current position, but generally speaking, the Board will review the decision and make a decision upon a majority vote. 

Are Revocations Permanent? 

Thankfully, the decision to revoke your security clearance is not permanent. However, clearance holders should be aware that you will likely be barred from applying for another security clearance for at least one year, regardless of whether or not you appeal the revocation. Some agencies will require that you wait two or three years. Furthermore, your reapplication request must be sponsored by the company or agency you will be working for. In other words, you cannot reapply on your own. 

You should also be aware that your reapplication will likely receive additional scrutiny. They will consider the reasons surrounding your revocation and whether you pose a continued security risk. The process won’t be easy, but it is possible. 

Working with an experienced security clearance attorney will improve your chances of getting your clearance back. They can also help you position yourself for success before you even reapply. For example, they will be able to identify steps you can take to mitigate past misconduct and future concerns. 

What Happens When Your Clearance is Suspended? 

 As mentioned above, a suspension is an interim step in deciding whether or not further action should be taken with regard to your security clearance. While it is less drastic than a revocation, the practical ramifications are severe – suspension of your security clearance will significantly limit your ability to do your job. Unfortunately, you cannot appeal your suspension – you can only wait for the government to decide whether it should initiate revocation proceedings. The government is required, however, to immediately begin an investigation once the suspension goes into effect. 

If your clearance has been suspended, all you can do is wait. In the meantime, you should continue to be paid, but you may or may not be assigned temporary duties. 

Contact The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford if You Are Facing Security Clearance Issues

Whether you are concerned about a possible suspension or revocation or are already in the process, we can provide you with the guidance you need to protect your career. Contact us today by calling 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation.