Dreams of A Diplomat: The Clearance Process

by Just Juan
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“All of the caution with your movements over the years is for this moment” – Jeremie Mason

Since the COVID-19 pandemic pretty much shut down the entire Federal government, there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress as it concerns my status on the Foreign Service Register or an official appointment into the Foreign Service. In fact, I’m still waiting on a response from the Registrar to three emails I’ve sent over the past month. While I’m getting the ol’ HR shut out from the Bureau of Human Resources, there was some good news today: my security clearance investigation was closed. I received an email from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security which informed me what was an inevitability nearly a ½ year ago: that I was eligible to hold a Top Secret security clearance. Combined with the worldwide medical clearance I received in January, I am ⅔ of the way through the required clearances. The only one left is the suitability review and there is very little concern for me there considering (1) I’m a current Federal government employee and have been for nearly 7 years and (2) I manage expensive contracts and assets. I just can’t see anything turning up in that review that would disqualify me.

That written, this particular post in the Dreams of a Diplomat series will focus on my experience in the clearance process. It started just moments after I passed the Foreign Service Oral Assessment last November. It’s actually a 3-part process that consists of (1) pre-employment medical examination, (2) a Top secret security clearance investigation, and (3) a suitability review.

In earnest, it started with the medical stuff. I had to visit the Bureau of Medical Services to conduct a physical and answer all kinds of questions regarding my physical and mental health history. I had to do labs, a chest X-ray, and an EKG tracing. I suppose it was all necessary but that didn’t mean it wasn’t invasive. Peep the italics on that word and I let you use your own imagination as to what that means. I also had to go through the medical clearance process for my wife and son but their clearances don’t really factor into me getting an appointment. Anyway, we got everything done and contrary to what Mercedes might think given my eating habits, the Department of State has deemed me to be very healthy…enough to clear me for worldwide availability.

Next up was the security clearance investigation…the long pole in the tent. It being a Top Secret security investigation, they went back 7 years or so. It made for a much easier investigation than the last time I was up for a Top Secret in 2011 as I’ve only lived in 3 places since November 2012—in Pyeongtaek/Seoul (South Korea), in Opelika (Alabama), and here in the DC area. I’m still in touch with many of my friends and associates from my previous residences and even my previous places of employment over the last 7 years so that was pretty simple. I was actually quite shocked that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security had the kind of reach they had in interviewing my people: one of my US-based contacts was actually in Europe and they sent a rep from over there to interview him. That’s definitely something DoD wouldn’t have done in my 2011 investigation. They interviewed my neighbors and my landlord just to get a sense of how I carried myself in my neighborhood and all. They interviewed my colleagues at DOI though I’m not too certain what they could’ve gleaned about my personal life from them since I largely keep it separate except on the sports front. Finally, they interviewed me. It was your typical security background investigation: what have you done, where have you been, who do you know, etc. I’m not sure if it was necessary or not but I did report my brief spell of dating The Canadian Cutie…her technically being a foreign contact and all. I literally got more questions asked of those 4-5 months of dating nearly 6 years ago than I did about anything else. The kind of questions the investigator asked had me thinking that they were going to open up a detailed investigation on her. It was crazy considering I haven’t talked to her in like 3 ½ years and haven’t seen her in person in nearly 4 years. Nevertheless, it appears that everything checked out and I got the clearance.

All that’s left is the suitability review. As I explained above, I really don’t think that will be an issue. In my time as a Federal civil service employee, I’ve been very clean. My performance appraisals have shown me to be an exceptional performer, I don’t have any disciplinary issues, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t partake in recreational drugs…hell, I rarely even use legal drugs for medical purposes. Most importantly, and the security clearance definitely picked this up, I’m not a financial risk. I would expect that to be finished in the next couple of weeks. With the security clearance in hand, now I can turn my focus to the Register and where I stand. I still have 15 months left to secure an appointment and I haven’t received any notice that I’ve been dropped into the “middle tier” or “lower tier” so I think my 6.175 score is still good. My feeling is that everything has been placed on hold because of the pandemic. Hopefully, I’ll have an appointment at some point late in the year.

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