Gaining clearance

The process of obtaining security clearances is a chore for any integrator — and a particularly arduous one for a small business.

Just ask Kenneth Bartee, president and chief executive officer of McDonald Bradley Inc., a solutions provider that employs 230 people in Herndon, Va. "It's very difficult for small businesses where you don't have a lot of prime contracts," he said. "I believe small businesses are at a decided disadvantage."

To get a foot in the classified door, a small business first needs to obtain a facility security clearance, which covers an organization's key management personnel. A government agency or a contractor that already has a facility security clearance must sponsor a company seeking its own clearance.

Some industry executives give the National Security Agency high grades for helping small businesses. The agency's small-business advocacy program facilitates the sponsorship process, matching small businesses with appropriate NSA program managers, according to Larry Haynes, program manager for IBM's Government and Global Services Security Operations.

Contractors may provide a lift as well. A contractor might establish an intent-to-do-business pact — a basic ordering agreement, for example — with a small business, Haynes said. That contract could become the basis for sponsorship.

With the facility security clearance in place, a small business may look for opportunities to clear individual employees. But a small business' options may be more restricted in this regard. On contracts involving sensitive information, the agency determines the number of billets — representing cleared personnel — required to do the work. The prime contractor controls the billets and may choose to distribute a portion of them among its subcontractors.

"Primes hold the billets of who gets clearances," Bartee said. Prime contractors may hold a few slots open for small businesses, but "you get limited access to clearing additional people."

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group