Survey: Contractors caught in clearances pinch

The federal government has not risen to the challenge presented by the increased demand for government contractors with security clearances, according to a new survey conducted by Federal Computer Week, the Information Technology Association of America and a coalition of industry organizations.

More than three-fourths of government contractors agree that the need for cleared employees to work on federal contracts has increased “greatly” (51 percent) or “somewhat” (26 percent) in the past five years, according to the survey.

But more than half the respondents believe the security clearance process, run by the Defense Security Service and the Office of Personnel Management, has worsened (31 percent) or not improved at all (24 percent) in the past year.

FCW and ITAA fielded the survey after DSS decided in April to suspend processing security clearances because funds had evaporated. More than 650 individuals in industry and government responded.

One contractor concern is the length of time it takes to receive clearances. Although one-third of the respondents said an interim clearance now takes about 30 days, another 25 percent put the time at more than 90 days. And 40 percent said it takes more than one year to adjudicate a top-secret clearance.

One in four contractors said they would be willing to pay a fee to speed the investigation process.

The bottleneck has given cleared employees a bargaining chip when it comes to salary negotiations, the survey finds. Just more than half the contractors polled said they are now paying a premium of 5 percent to 25 percent or other benefits to attract, hire and retain cleared workers.

The findings also underscore how unhappy contractors are with current clearance reciprocity and reinvestigation procedures. Fifty-eight percent said applications for periodic reinvestigations are taking longer to process or are not being processed at all.

Trey Hodgkins, director of ITAA’s defense committee, said the survey confirms “the anecdotal information we’ve been hearing from our members" about problems they’ve faced for several years.

A more complete version of the survey will appear in the June 19 issue of Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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