The topic of a staffing firm providing cleared employees to work on their customer’s classified contracts is fraught with details and variables. The best way to approach the topic is to make sure all readers start with these basic points.

  1. Only a cleared staffing firm can provide a cleared employee to work on a customer’s classified contract.
  2. For a staffing firm employee to have access to classified information the employee’s firm[1] must first have a bona fide procurement requirement[2]. We will use the term “contract” in this article.
  3. With a bona fide contract in place, the staffing firm must be sponsored for a facility clearance (aka FCL) by the entity that provided the contract.[3]
  4. Once a staffing firm is cleared, the facility “owns” and manages the personnel security clearance (aka PCL) of those it hires. Hired personnel fall into two general categories— full/part-time employees (paid via W-2) and hired consultants (paid via 1099).
  5. Once obtaining an FCL, a staffing facility can support multiple classified contracts upon receiving bona fide contracts from other customers without repeating the sponsorship process in point three above.

To succinctly state a key point, ownership of an employee’s PCL belongs to the entity that pay’s the employee via a W-2 or 1099. Note that a customer cannot “own” a clearance of a staffing firm employee. The customer is not paying the staffed employee directly, the firm is paid. Although the practice of a customer “owning” the clearance of a staffing firm’s employee has been followed at times by some customers, it is not in accordance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM).

So how does a staffing firm move into the world of supplying cleared employees to their customers? They must have a cleared customer sponsor them for a facility clearance. However, customers of staffing firms have shown a reluctance to create a perceived (but not necessarily true) “longer-term” classified contract.

How is this reluctance mitigated? First a trusting relationship built over past performance with the staffing firm can mitigate some of the reluctance. Second if the contract is split into two services (i.e. providing cleared employees and providing uncleared employees) it allows the customer the flexibility to use another staffing firm for un-cleared help, if desired.

So, if a staffing firm can get a customer to step up and sponsor them for a facility clearance, then the following benefits accrue to both:

  • The customer is better served because the staffing facility can respond quickly to cleared staffing needs;
  • The customer has a one-stop resource for both cleared and un-cleared staffing, if so desired;
  • The staffing facility can check in JPAS on the true clearance status of  potential employees to meet a customer’s requirements;
  • Having cleared employees available for customers opens a new revenue stream for a staffing facility.

Staffing firms should not hesitate to approach their cleared customers with this potential service and to ask for their sponsorship. You will be doing them and your firm a favor, especially if your customer has been “working around” the clearance issue by “owning” the clearance of your employee.

[1] In DoD security terms, a “company” or “firm” is a non-cleared business; a “facility” is a cleared business.

[2] A “procurement requirement” is a Request for Proposal, contract, subcontract, MOU, etc., reflecting the requirement to access classified.

[3] NISPOM 2-102. “A contractor or prospective contractor cannot apply for its own FCL. A Government Cognizant Agency or a currently cleared contractor may sponsor an uncleared company for an FCL.”

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Wynn C. Phillips, ISP, President and CEO of a company that provides clearance support to small companies and their access to JPAS. He is a retired USAF officer and has 16 years experience in industrial security. He presently serves as a Security Manager and FSO for a educational research facility. He has served as VP and Board Member of NCMS, Inc., an international professional organization.