In 2019 the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) Security Policy and Reform Council released a report on security clearance reciprocity. The report noted that administrative delays in clearance transfer cost 1,000 lost contractor labor-years each year – to the tune of $2 billion in the intelligence community alone, and $8 billion when considering the federal government as a whole. This week they released a new report outlining how reciprocity isn’t the only issue – but mobility. Improving Security Clearance Mobility highlights how issues with security clearance transfers are a multi-stakeholder problem, and not something that can be solved by engaging security policy stakeholders alone.

Security clearance reciprocity has a five-day processing goal. That is something the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) has largely been able to accomplish. But INSA rightly notes that nested within a clearance transfer are a number of other issues – and ones that cause delays extending far beyond a five-day baseline. The report notes five distinct issues outside of reciprocity that can clearance transfer delays:

  • Exceptions
  • Polygraphs
  • Suitability/fitness
  • SCI nomination
  • SCI indoctrination/scheduling

The report presciently provides a section with questions for individuals in key agencies across government to ask – it notes the disparate and often frustrating disparities affecting the mobility of cleared personnel – things like extra questionnaire’s for CIA contractors and separate IT systems for Army industry applicants Many of these additional hurdles to clearance mobility disproportionately affect defense contractors.

“Current policy and practices restrict industry’s ability to hire new talent and drive companies to use already cleared employees to meet contractual obligations. Such a decision simply creates another vacancy somewhere else—robbing Peter to pay Paul. This
dynamic, which drives salaries higher in an effort to entice people to change jobs, is particularly true for the limited pool of individuals holding clearances with polygraphs—a population in very high demand,” the report states.

To help with some of the disparity in how rules are applied, the report offers recommendations specific to the DoD, IC, and ODNI. For the DoD, the report emphasized that a key improvement would be to adjudicate all Top Secret security clearances for SCI eligibility. Intelligence community recommendations largely focus on polygraphs and access to Scattered Castles. For ODNI, INSA recommends establishing single officials or teams to tackle the big picture issues of clearance mobility.

Why Mobility Matters

The report outlines several reasons why security clearance mobility is a national security issue. When it comes to time, resources, and mission, mobility affects it all. In the critical quest to attract and expand the cleared workforce, mobility is also an impediment to the government’s diversity initiatives.

“Personnel mobility hurdles also make it harder to increase diversity in the cleared workforce and bring in people with cutting-edge STEM skills. Burdensome requirements eliminate large swaths of talented candidates, including those from under-represented backgrounds; many new university graduates, including those with advanced STEM skills; and retired and separated military personnel who are already cleared. In short, if industry can only move already fully cleared personnel from one cleared role to another, the diversity of the IC is unlikely to change,” said the report.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.