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So just this week at my current job, I was given a request to file for top secret/sci security clearance. I have gone through the process before, and successfully acquired my secret clearance last year. I have a few issues with this request though.

  1. I don't plan on staying at this job longer than May of next year. I have been dead set on moving away from my current living situation and trying something new next summer, and this job isn't in the plans (I don't particularly enjoy this job, but it pays the bills). I even considered making earlier, when things get particularly rough. I know this is an expensive process and I genuinely feel bad about putting anyone through it when I have no plans to stay in this company long term.

  2. I wasn't talked to about this, they just sent the request and said I have 4 days to file the papers. It has been mentioned in passing about a year ago, but no conversation was ever made beyond that. Also, TS is not required for my position, but is a good plus.

  3. I have some serious ethical concerns about polygraphs, and I am not comfortable with the concept of it. I won't get into my thoughts on it, but my feelings towards them are a big no-can-do. Im anxious just thinking about them.

When I signed on, I agreed that I was eligible to obtain Secret clearance. So this was quite the surprise to me, considering my project lead and supervisor do not have any clearance higher than secret. I figure I probably have two options here - suck it up and let it run its course and just leave when I'm ready, or talk to my manager and be honest about my plans, regardless of the consequences.

How can I politely decline my manager's request to obtain this clearance?

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    I don't believe this question is a duplicate but there are some very broadly similar questions that might have useful answers: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/50764/… and workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/21256/… – Mel Reams Jul 9 '17 at 5:51
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    To be clear: you were fine with applying for a Secret security clearance (SC) and have since obtained one, but you're objecting to the TS SC? Have you not considered the third option of pushing back against the procedure on ethical grounds or simply because it's too much of a hassle? An SSBI is no joke. – Lilienthal Jul 9 '17 at 8:53
  • And while this may be off-topic to cover here, I'm wondering if you can even pass an SSBI when you already have semi-firm plans to leave your current employer. Getting these clearances is typically contingent on working with and planning to stay with a single company long-term. – Lilienthal Jul 9 '17 at 8:54
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    @Lilienthal there is nothing in the SSBI itself that requires longevity in a given company. The company may want some expectations of longevity but the investigation has no way of knowing or proving that. – Paul Jul 9 '17 at 12:13
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    @MelReams going for SC/DV Secret TS clearance is nothing like the other two you mentioned. – Neuromancer Jul 9 '17 at 17:13
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Also, TS is not required for my position, but is a good plus.

Justification for a clearance is required. If you do not need one (or one of a particular level or into a particular program) to do your job, your company should not be putting you in for one. Before I left my last job, the government was requesting that agencies and contractors review people as they come up for renewal and not renew people who do not currently need them for their work. Their intention was to reduce the number of people who have the ability to access classified information.

I think this gives you the best opportunity for discussion with your manager. It may also be wise to consult with your security office, as well, to understand more about why you are being required to submit paperwork for a higher clearance level than you believe you need to do your job. Depending on their answers, if you think that there is something suspicious with the reasons for them asking you to apply, you may also wish to consider speaking to Defense Security Service or whatever agencies managed your security clearances.

I do find it odd that they would be asking for you to submit for a clearance at any level without having a conversation with you about it.

I have some serious ethical concerns about polygraphs, and I am not comfortable with the concept of it. I won't get into my thoughts on it, but my feelings towards them are a big no-can-do. Im anxious just thinking about them.

Depending on how the first conversations go, this is another valid point. The background checks at this level are much more intrusive. It's normal to have concerns. However, I'm not personally aware of anyone who has worked in the defense industry and has had objections to the various types of background investigations, so I'm not sure how this will play out.

Normally, the possibility of needing various security investigations and background checks is understood. If your position has changed such that you require a different level of clearance to do your job, how your refusal to follow through is taken will depend on your company. I could see dismissal as a possibility, especially if reassignment isn't possible.

I don't plan on staying at this job longer than May of next year. I have been dead set on moving away from my current living situation and trying something new next summer, and this job isn't in the plans (I don't particularly enjoy this job, but it pays the bills).

This is something that I wouldn't bring up, at this point in time. Common advice is to not indicate that you will be leaving your position until you give formal notice.

Focus on why the clearance is required for your current position and raise your concerns with the process.

  • Good answer (and complete). I will say that last year I had a project opportunity for a person who worked for me and I asked them if they'd be able to get a TS to support it. They said they'd rather not (less for the poly and more because of the reporting requirements when you leave the country), so we found someone else. – Paul Jul 9 '17 at 12:16
  • @Paul I would suspect that's how most companies would work. But there's still some level of risk - if there's no other work that you can be reassigned to for whatever reason, then you may face dismissal. When I was in the industry, I would think that my managers would have made every attempt to find a different project should someone have a reasonable objection to a TS, SCI, or SAP background check that they may not have been aware of at hire time. But I don't think every manager would be like that. – Thomas Owens Jul 9 '17 at 12:23
  • Fair enough, though from the tone of the OP it looks like it was not well planned to begin with. – Paul Jul 9 '17 at 16:22
  • "If you do not need one (or one of a particular level or into a particular program) to do your job, your company should not be putting you in for one." - This isn't entirely true, while a bona fide need is required, that need could come down to the author's leadership wanting people in the office to have a situational awareness. This entirely depends how many pegs on the ladder the author's chain of command has. – Donald Jul 10 '17 at 16:24
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    @Ramhound I left the defense industry about a year ago. When I left, a whole lot of people didn't get their clearances renewed because they were not currently working on a program that needed that level of access. Some people went from a TS to S, others didn't get anything. This was a government directive to do so. Perhaps guidance has changed in the past year, or perhaps these companies are choosing to ignore the guidance, I'm not sure. But wanting "situational awareness" or getting a clearance because it may be needed in the future is discouraged, if not prevented entirely. – Thomas Owens Jul 10 '17 at 16:49
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suck it up and let it run its course and just leave when I'm ready

This, because plans may change, and in any case you should never let a company know you're getting ready to leave until your notice period.

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    And having a current TS clearance does open up for opportunities – Neuromancer Jul 9 '17 at 17:04
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I was pushed into a security clearance at a previous employer -- resisted successfully for several years and then it became a condition of continued employment. Assuming you aren't at the "condition of employment" phase yet, I suggest you tell your employer what you've told us about your concerns about the clearance itself (not your plans to leave). Something like:

Boss, I got the Secret clearance that you told me up front I'd need, and I've no problems with that. I was surprised to be told to apply for TS. TS has much more stringent requirements, and I'm really not comfortable with that.

In my case I wasn't comfortable with even the Secret, and as I said, that worked for me for a while.

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When I signed on, I agreed that I was eligible to obtain Secret clearance. So this was quite the surprise to me, considering my project lead and supervisor do not have any clearance higher than secret. I figure I have two options here - suck it up and let it run its course and just leave when I'm ready, or talk to my manager and be honest about my plans, regardless of the consequences.

Thoughts?

It seems like you have a third option. Depending on the depths of your ethical concerns, you can refuse to take the polygraph.

If it were me, I'd just take the test, get the clearance, and see what happens down the road. May of next year is a long way away and plans can change.

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Keep it Simple - Too Traumatic

Tell them that when you obtained your prior clearance that it made you very uncomfortable and, although you obtained the clearance without issue, you swore to yourself that you would never put yourself through the stress and strain to do it again.

If they say that they have "big plans" for you, respond by saying it was so traumatic the first time, that you'll happily take a pass on any "big plans" - TS clearance is beyond what you signed up for in this position and it is not worth it to you.

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