Security clearance can provide government workers with heavily classified information. When individuals gain this type of access, both them and their spouses often have to meet stringent standards to qualify. That’s because public service members are held accountable for both them and their spouse’s actions. They also have to prove they are transparent, as the government puts a lot of trust in them to handle this information delicately.
If the federal government believes a public employee or their spouse did something to break that trust, they could decide to revoke the worker’s security clearance and employment.
Actions that could get them in trouble
When public service members enter a relationship or get married, they should make sure their partner understands what could happen if either one of them behaves negligently. These are a few examples:
- Financial mismanagement: Before they pass financial responsibilities over to their partner, they need to make sure they responsible enough to handle money. If a government employee’s spouse is a reckless spender, racking up thousands of dollars in debt, the federal government may see this as a negligent move on behalf of the public service member.
- Using or working with cannabis: While recreational use of marijuana is legal in several states, it still isn’t permitted under federal law. If one’s spouse works with or uses marijuana, the public employee could get viewed as rationalizing unlawful activity. In most cases, the federal government may revoke their security clearance because of their spouse’s business.
- The spouse is an undocumented immigrant: Marrying someone who does not have American citizenship status can be difficult for public service members. However, there are ways government workers can marry a foreign national without sacrificing their security clearance. For instance, a government worker who had top-secret security clearance got married to an Israeli citizen. She was still able to keep her status for several reasons. That’s because she disclosed her relationship to her security officer and made sure she complied with federal policies when she visited him. It also helped that Israel is an ally of the United States.
It can be challenging to understand the rules
When public service members are responsible for both them and their spouse’s actions, it can feel like walking on thin ice. But in the eyes of the federal government, the behavior of one’s spouse is a reflection on a public service member’s trustworthiness and moral character.
While the federal government needs to maintain that level of security to protect the nation, not every accusation of a security breach is accurate. That’s why public service workers need to have strong legal representation if disputes arise.