It’s a frequent problem particularly in the government-driven Washington, D.C. area – highly skilled cleared personnel left sitting on their hands for months at a time while awaiting security clearance reciprocity or transfer between agencies. In some cases the individuals are able to await work in a government office, although with limited access to networks, systems or other tools of the job. In other cases, they’re sitting at home, literally doing nothing except perhaps administrative duties while awaiting clearance transfer and subsequent placement.
The failed goal of clearance reciprocity was highlighted by Tech America in a recently released survey. Tech America didn’t note the number of respondents but said they were among the 1,000 defense industry firms that are a part of the organization. Of respondents, 96 percent noted difficulty in transferring clearances between agencies.
Lack of security clearance transfer as well as effective records keeping was cited as a hindrance to the security clearance process in the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. In 2005 an Executive Order addressed “Recirprocal Recognition of Existing Personnel Security Clearances.” The executive order included a checklist for determining whether or not a new investigation could be required. It also emphasized the needs for more efficient records keeping in order to keep updated on clearance status, reinvestigation history and polygraph information.
The Tech America survey did note that 52 percent of respondents said processing times for someone to obtain a clearance has improved, which supports survey findings of ClearanceJobs.com that clearance processing times have improved by about 30 days in the past two years.
Delays in clearance processing or transfer cause subsequent delays in getting employees to work – 37 percent of respondents noted it took 30-90 days to get a cleared employee onto a new contract at an agency. Depending on the work status of the professional, that could either mean 1-3 months without a paycheck or for a defense contractor, 1-3 months of funding a salary that isn’t returning a profit.
The good news is that the need for security clearance reciprocity isn’t lost on government leaders. Congressional testimony into security clearance reform has continually pointed to reciprocity as a key area for both cost savings and increased efficiency. Renewed interest improving the technology used to track security clearance applications and eAdjudication are also useful advancements in ensuring security clearance processing is more efficient, and more easy to transfer between agencies.