At one time or another in your cleared career, you may find yourself facing a job opportunity that constitutes a double-edged sword. On one side could be a promotion, increased pay, and/or family considerations like a flexible schedule. On the other side could be that the job does not require a security clearance. As soon as you leave your cleared job to take it, a twenty-four-month clock begins counting down – the conclusion of which means the expiration of your clearance eligibility unless reactivated by an employer prior to that time.
The loss of security clearance may sound like a relatively minor concession compared to the upsides of a pay increase or promotion. However, as most clearance holders know, a security clearance (or at least current eligibility for one) is a highly marketable asset that can, in-and-of-itself, be worth cash on the barrelhead in today’s climate of lengthy clearability delays. As one client recently lamented to me, keeping his career options open by maintaining clearance eligibility was important – but so was the opportunity to gain expertise in the non-cleared, commercial side of his field. What is a clearance holder to do?
Fortunately, there are a few creative ways to have your cake and eat it, too. Here they are:
Many cleared contractors serve in the Reserve, National Guard, or previously served Active Duty with a continuing obligation of Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) status. If one of these options describes you, don’t overlook the fact that a cleared billet in the military will keep your clearance just as valid as it would if you were using it full-time as a contractor. If you aren’t in a cleared billet, explore your options for a change of MOS or collateral duties that can get you a clearance. Alternatively, if you aren’t serving at all, consider whether a part-time commitment as a Reservist or National Guardsman makes sense for you. Both programs are great opportunities to serve the country while simultaneously earning additional income and potentially advancing your civilian career by learning new skills.
Consulting and Sub-Contractor Arrangements
In today’s “gig” economy, consulting and sub-contractor arrangements are becoming far more common. Posting your CV on Clearancejobs.com – and specifically indicating that you are seeking consulting or part-time work – is a great way to get noticed by recruiters seeking out applicants for such roles. If you have highly specialized expertise, you may find yourself in considerable demand. And, there are a plethora of smaller government contractors out there who might not be able to afford someone full-time, but who have work that needs to be done on a part-time or as-needed basis (e.g. computer technical support). Just be sure that the contractor is a cleared entity and willing to pick-up sponsorship of your clearance. Also, if you’re not being hired as a W-2 employee, be sure to talk with an accountant about the tax reporting and payment issues involved with being a self-employed person.
Facility Security Clearance
The process for obtaining a facility security clearance (i.e. starting a business as a cleared contractor that would effectively enable you to sponsor yourself for clearance) is time-consuming, costly, and not realistic for most people. However, in rare cases, it may make sense for those of a particularly entrepreneurial outlook. Owning a cleared contractor means that you hold the keys to your professional destiny and clearance eligibility – an empowering, if not eye-opening, endeavor. I personally love being a business owner, but it has its stresses, especially when dealing with the government. If you’re tired of the rat race and don’t mind working 80 hours a week for yourself to avoid working 40 for someone else, this could be for you.
Life has a way of throwing curve-balls when you least expect it. A temporary loss of security clearance may have a major impact on long-term career outlook. But, with a bit of creativity, the obstacles are often entirely surmountable. Here’s to outside-the-box solutions.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.
 During this twenty-four-month window, your clearance would remain “current” (i.e. eligible for reinstatement upon sponsorship) but not “active” (i.e. no continuing ability to access classified information until and unless reactivated).