Number of Security Clearance Applications Rises
The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) reported the number of new security clearance applications has risen to almost 500,000 over the past four years. This increase, combined with the current investigation backlog, does not bode well for companies who rely on a pool of cleared employees to work on classified projects. The NBIB reported the average number of days to a Top Secret/DoD industry clearance in the 2nd quarter of 2018 was 543 days. I personally have seen much improvement recently for those seeking Secret clearances, however. Tier 3 investigations are getting closed within three months after submission to NBIB. The adjudication timelines are still an unknown and is hard to pin down because each agency handles its own adjudication process.
This clearance conundrum has caused companies in industry to change their hiring tactics and institute what is called the “Blue Sky” approach. This means soliciting applications and resumes from a large pool of candidates and offering them a “conditional” offer of employment for future contract work. The company then submits security clearance requests on these candidates even though they may never actually hire them or may not even get awarded the contract. As you may imagine, this practice has added to the glut of security clearance applications and goes against the premise of only clearing personnel in a position that requires access to classified information. But can you really blame these companies for wanting to have a qualified workforce able to start on a project or contract when needed?
As long as Top Secret clearance processing times hover at near two years, expect the “Blue Sky” approach to continue.