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The Security Clearance Challenge

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

The world is your oyster if you are a job seeker in the government sector and have already achieved a coveted security clearance. However, for the many candidates who have applied, their wait continues to be a long one. Though the reduced number of clearances is seen as a positive by some in the security community, i.e. less cost and less access to sensitive information, the current numbers highlight a growing problem. The investigative backlog for security clearances is not a new issue, but in today’s competitive employment landscape the delay creates inevitable challenges for both candidates and employers.

The Numbers

For all the right reasons, the investigative processes associated with approving a security clearance are lengthy and exhaustive. Cleared professionals have access to extremely sensitive information that if misused or compromised, can negatively impact the national security of our country. Although the process is an invasive one, current delays have more to do with past and current bureaucratic mismanagement and the lack of investigative resources needed to support the process. The data speaks for itself and highlights a challenge that will continue to impact employers and candidates well into the future.

  • The number of cleared professionals has dropped by 30% since 2013 and the percentage is estimated to increase.

  • The demand for cleared talent has risen by 640% since 2013 and over 50% in the last year.

  • The clearance backlog is at 720,000 with investigations taking up to 4 times longer than in 2014.

  • There are significantly more cleared jobs than cleared candidates to fill them.

The Impact on Candidates

Cleared professionals who are current job seekers have a tremendous number of opportunities given the number of available jobs and the limited pool of qualified candidates. For qualified job seekers, it’s a fortunate position! But for those awaiting their clearance, the delay poses many to make a stay or leave decision. Candidates with high demand skills who are waiting for their clearance and sitting on the bench or working on uncleared contracts are at risk for leaving to take on more immediately challenging assignments elsewhere. Those with a contingent offer and no paycheck are the least likely to endure the six-month-plus wait to find out whether or not they have been approved for a security clearance. Today’s job market precludes any skilled and experienced candidate from having to wait without pay for a professional opportunity.

The Impact on Employers

The security clearance delays are also creating major headaches for employers. The lack of cleared qualified candidates has created a war for talent and inevitably driven up employee wages, while government programs push down bill rates. The limited pool of cleared qualified candidates sometimes forces hiring managers to select candidates that have their clearance and the required skills, but to forego the additional desired skills in order to fill much-needed positions. And as wait times drive candidates to find alternative employment, employers find themselves in an expensive hiring spiral having to re-identify, re-select and re-submit suitable candidates for the security clearance process. The end result for the government contracts needing candidates – project delays, impacts to quality, and higher costs.

The ongoing challenges have led the Government Accountability Office to label the security clearance process as High-Risk which has sparked some action from the federal government to reduce the backlog. Industry and related government agencies must look for creative ways to reform the security clearance process. For example, prioritizing security requests for the military (active and veterans) and critical programs, leveraging technology and information sharing, and appropriately funding the processes are some of the ways to impact the current backlog. Solving the security clearance dilemma not only benefits government sector employers and prospective candidates, it’s a win-win for national security and the financial efficacy of our tax dollars.

Let Tsource Help You Find Your Next Cleared Opportunity

Tsource has been helping our commercial and government clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. maximize their potential, right-size their infrastructure, and achieve their business and technology goals since 2003. We've helped customers deliver faster leveraging an Agile approach, improved system availability and performance by modernizing their technology portfolio, and successfully matched hiring managers with great IT talent. Experience matters and with over 30+ years of IT experience in the most diverse and complex environments, we are passionate about helping our customers get the most out of their technology investments by providing them with cost-effective, right-sized solutions. Tsource is a ISO 9001:2015 certified Woman Owned Small Business delivering IT Solutions, Managed Services, and Staffing. If you are interested in working with us, contact us online or give us a call at 410-970-6669.

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