Years ago, I was a counterintelligence agent working for the US Army. It was an interesting career and one I obviously can't talk too much about, but at one point it ended, I became a civilian and then went on with my life. Shortly after getting out of the service, I applied to the Central Intelligence Agency, was accepted and the day before I was to fly to Washington, D.C. for the final signing, I received a form that I had to fill out before I would be flying out. The paperwork informed me from that point on that EVERYTHING I ever wrote in the future would be subject to having to be cleared by the CIA before it could be published.
Being a writer, I stared at that form and realized there was no way in hell I could sign it. I was writing espionage fiction at that period in my life, and all I could think was that somewhere some paper pusher was going to start deciding what I could and couldn't write in my novels, mainly because I would have signed a paper allowing someone to do just that. All sorts of fantastical scenarios played in my head to the point that I talked myself out of joining the CIA, turned down the flight and for the next few weeks fielded calls from the recruiting agent who kept explaining I was overreacting. But it was a no deal for me, and that was the end of that chapter in my life.
Fast forward a few decades, and I was actually applying for a position as an agent who conducted background investigations, requiring the same clearance that I had before. As the background investigation was conducted on me, it suddenly stalled when a discovery was made: Some 20 years or so ago, I turned a car back into the dealer because I couldn't afford to make payments on it. Because I was flat broke back then (and bordering on homeless), I cut ties with that loan agency and they with me. The agent who negotiated taking back the car indicated that that would be the end of it, and we'd part ways amicably. Turns out he lied as the car company charged off the debt and then sold my debt to some credit collector who continued to harass me for many years since that mistake. Welll, 20 years later, during a background investigation, suddenly I was a questionable applicant as I obviously couldn't be trusted to keep secrets for the government because I had a bad credit item in my past. I was turned down for the clearance.
So, since then, I've realized that I'll probably never be able to work for the government again. I was looking into working for the State Department at one point because my academic research actually yielded an innovative peace process that had been untried before. However, because of this whole clearance thing, I realized that I could never work for the State Department either. To be an administrative assistance in the State Department, you have to be able to qualify for one of the highest clearances. So, that means that in the future, even though I may have discovered a peace process that might yield future success for the world, and especially our country, it won't go anywhere because the guy who came up with it obviously can't be trusted.
This got me to thinking that our future is kind of screwed in more ways than one, and not just because we'll never be able to achieve peace through my academic research but because we are still at the trail end of a major recession, which means a lot of people now have really bad credit. Therefore, when things start to improve, we have a whole new crop of people who can never get security clearances because they have bad credit in their past.
Our credit process has now turned our nation into one that has fewer and fewer qualified people able to serve it, which means that as our choices are limited by those who can maintain a clearance, we lose a lot of intelligent people who may have ran into a problem somewhere in their past. Talk about cutting off the great accomplishments of so many potential people who might want to still serve our nation but can't mainly because they're not wanted anymore because of some past incident that was probably not planned or desired.
I remember receiving letters from the clearance agency people indicating that I had to somehow "explain" my credit problem, and all I could think at the time was: "There was this time in my life when I had no money, no job and no hope of ever changing that. What more would you like to know?" Figuring that wouldn't be good enough for someone in a government job who has probably never experienced that situation, I threw away the letter and figured the government just didn't want or need me anymore.
I imagine that's going to be happening a lot in the near future.