Obtaining Security Clearance

Self-Sponsorship of Security Clearances?

Many qualified people find themselves unable to successfully compete for federal positions because they don’t have an “active” or “current” security clearance. This situation is often characterized as a “Catch-22” in that you can’t get sponsored for a security clearance without a job offer from a federal agency or contractor, and you often can’t get the job offer without a clearance.

A British IT contractor recently initiated an E-Petition at the UK Prime Minister’s website requesting that individuals be allowed to pay for their own clearances. So far 614 people have signed the petition. An American initiated a similar petition at a non-governmental E-Petition website without suggesting who would pay for the processing and has only gathered 22 signatures. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for “the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The UK Prime Minister’s E-Petition website has existed for over a year, but a similar website for the US President is only now being discussed on a blog page at the White House website.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts about 80% of all federal security clearance investigations. Their current price for a standard NACLC investigation needed for a contractor Secret clearance is $221. Because OPM clearance investigations are handled on a fee-for-service basis, the mechanism exists for individuals to pay for their own investigations, but no mechanism exists to pay for adjudicating the investigations. Another obstacle to self-sponsorship is the federal government’s policy to limit clearance requests to only those positions for which a validate need exists. Without these 2 obstacles private companies could fill the need to provide the necessary front-end application and payment processing.

Is it time for the federal government to allow people to sponsor themselves for a security clearance, if they are willing to personally pay for it?

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Not a bad idea. The gov’t is missing-out on some of the brightest folks because they cannot apply without a clearance. If we just keep recycling folks, we will never spur innovation the way we could if the doors were open.

    Just my .02

  2. Avatar

    There are an estimated 3.2 million people in the U.S. with federal security clearance. So I don’t think the government has been very serious about limiting clearances to only those who hold a position with a valid need for a clearance. Allowing the cleared population to increase by a few percent by permitting people to sponsor themselves for a clearance shouldn’t have any detrimental effect on the system.

    For some people their ability to get an interim Secret clearance in a few days makes them almost as competitive as those with active Secret clearances, but for others, many employers may not be able or willing to wait for them to receive a final clearance. For the uncleared, many jobs requiring higher level clearances are completely beyond their reach. Soon, even those people who can compete for cleared positions because of their eligibility to get an interim Secret clearance may be blocked from consideration, because the new federal investigative standards appear to have eliminated interim clearances entirely.

    I believe the government’s policy regarding security clearances is wrong. There is a legitimate reason to limit the number of people who have access to classified information, but I can’t think of a good reason why it is necessary to limit the number of people who are “eligible” for access to classified information. Eligibility for access is what we commonly call a security clearance.

  3. Avatar

    Oops. I should have mentioned the one obvious reason for limiting the number of clearances: COST. But we’re talking about allowing people to pay for their own clearances.

  4. Avatar

    What is the status of the new federal investigative standards? In the fall I heard about it or read about it a lot. Now not much. Is it a low priority on the new administrations list of things to do?

  5. Avatar

    There are quite a few things that would need to be clarified before this could work. The biggest problem I see is that every position within the federal government has a unique sensitivity level. This is what decides the level of investigation and level of clearance. This applies to both the federal workforce and contractors. The sensitivity of the position can vary from agency to agency. So, you pay for a Secret and the position requires a Top…you still out of luck.

  6. Avatar

    Investigator: The new federal investigative standards were approved by the DNI and the acting Director of OPM in December 2008. Planned implementation of the new standards will involve “incremental deployment in selected populations anticipated to begin in the second quarter of calendar year 2009.”

  7. Avatar

    Eliminate the requirement to have the clearance to apply for a govt related job will also eliminate the problem. Once you have the job based on qualifications for it, then you can obtain a clearance. No $$$ out of anyone’s pocket until the job is offered and accepted.

  8. Avatar

    Fed1810: Welcome.
    The new investigative standards have reduced the number of sensitivity levels to 3 with 3 corresponding investigations. Only 2 levels are for security clearances. I think most people looking for cleared jobs know which level is going to make them eligible for majority of jobs they are interested in.

  9. Avatar

    I agree with William. Most job postings seem to indicate very clearly what clearance is needed to qualify, and I think the country will benefit from having a bigger pool of eligible workers — especially if they themselves are paying to get into the pool, instead of the government. I also think such a system will be helpful to someone who, say, left government service with a Secret clearance and wants to apply for a job that requires a Top Secret clearance. Being able to just pay for the investigation and then apply would make the whole process better.

    I also think that the fee for clearance investigations should be higher so that the government can increase their throughput on these things across the board… especially if the doors open to individuals or companies paying for their own investigations.

  10. Avatar

    I have been wondering how to go about finding out the status of one’s clearance or if one even has a clearance anymore. Does any one know?

    I used to have one while in the navy and then as a govt contractor but that was a while ago and I would be interested in govt jobs again but need to know my current status.

  11. Avatar

    Mike W:
    If it’s been more than 2 years since left the last job where you held a security clearance, you clearance has expired and a new investigation will be required.

  12. Avatar

    Mike W: I was able to find out my status through an employment firm specializing in cleared jobs. They had an FSO with access to JPAS and were able to look it up on-line with my SSN. Not all recruitment firms have an FSO of course, but any such agency offering cleared contract work would have to have one (they would be employing you and would need to have a cleared facility and therefore an FSO).

  13. Avatar

    Are teh OPM Charges for a clearance charged back to the company?
    When a company nominates someone for a clearance, is this charged
    to the Firm, the agency they have a contract with, is it handled by DISCO?

  14. Avatar

    About time- $221 is insignificant compared to the loss of income because of DISCO’s “loss of jurisdiction.” Key question is how long will it take for a reinvestigation. I filed an appeal with DSS for a hearing to remove a State of Massachusetts proven false JPASS incident report more than 2 years ago !

  15. Avatar

    Pat: DISCO is an appropriated fund activity. Each year they receive money allocated to them within the DoD Authorization bill and use this money to pay for most DoD contractor security investigations and adjudications. Other DoD and most non-DoD agencies pay for contractor security clearances using their own money. With very few exceptions, federal contractors don’t pay for clearances.

  16. Avatar

    Does anyone know of any law officers who would sponsor a clearance? I think there would be a big business for this- Because people will pay for their own clearances if they think they can land a job with an active clearance.