Clearance gets easier

A little-noticed provision in the new intelligence law will make it easier and faster for federal contractors to obtain clearances for work on government projects.

The legislation, signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 17, 2004, provides reciprocity for contractors who have clearances at one agency and requires that most clearances to be completed within 120 days by 2006.

It also calls for a lead agency to be in charge of the majority of clearances and to establish standards to make sure it works smoothly.

Right now, the difficulty in obtaining clearances often leads to a high increase in salaries for those with clearances, costing the federal government and contractors extra money, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who spoke today at a conference sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America on the new rules.

"It is a huge crisis for firms out here. It is a crisis for taxpayers. Someone with a clearance can almost name their price," Davis said.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 establishes a new director of national intelligence as the president's chief adviser on intelligence, with budgetary and monitoring authority over foreign and domestic intelligence activities. It also creates a national counterterrorism center, where terrorism information will be channeled and whose director will report to the president on counterterrorism planning.

Contractors and federal agency officials have complained that clearances can take a year or more to make it through official channels, slowing down essential work.

In a recent case, a FBI agent called Davis' office seeking help because he was transferring to the Defense Department. Although he had a clearance from the FBI, DOD did not trust it, said John Cuaderes, a staff member of the House Government Reform Committee chaired by Davis who also spoke at the session.

He told the gathering of 150 industry executives that the management of security clearances was "broken," and the new law is intended to fix the inefficiencies in the system.

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