Commercial Space Industry Says Security Clearance Process is too Cumbersome
The creation of a new branch of the military, the Space Force, has created new contract opportunities for commercial aerospace space companies to provide the Department of Defense (DoD) with critical technologies and support to help counter the continued counterintelligence threat from countries like China and Russia. Many of these companies are nontraditional, meaning they are not the Boeings, Lockheed Martins or Northrup Grummans of the world. These are small, innovative companies whose staff have never had security clearances before. Now, after overcoming DoD acquisition hurdles, they have found another hurdle, the security clearance process.
First, the companies have to be on a contract that requires access to classified information. That means they will need a Facility Security Clearance (FCL). In order to get an FCL, they must be sponsored by the DoD and key personnel in the company must undergo a background investigation and be granted security clearances. We all know a national security background investigation is not completed overnight. It may take months on average. Then, once they have an FCL, their personnel working on the contract are now authorized to have national security background investigations done.
The Space industry has suggested a way to alleviate this “slow and byzantine” way of doing things: grant FCLs to companies who do not yet have a government contract and put them in a hold status until such as time as they do get a classified contract. This would allow the DoD to share sensitive information on counterintelligence threats in order to protect themselves and the United States from on-going counterintelligence threats. This would also create opportunities for new aerospace start-ups and funding channels. This, in turn, keeps talented employees from seeking opportunities elsewhere while waiting for the security clearance process.