For cleared positions it’s often essential to transfer workers between contracts rather than onboard new talent. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. The issue of security clearance mobility is the focus of a recent white paper released by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). While one may assume that once you’ve obtained a security clearance you should be able to use that eligibility to access the same level of information, that’s all too often not the case.
“You would think a top secret clearance is a top secret clearance is a top secret clearance, it shouldn’t matter who granted it, who did the investigation, or accepted it, and who you’re transferring it to, but it does,” said Larry Hanauer, vice president of policy at INSA. It’s a problem that anyone who has left government and tried to move into the private sector can relate to – that sense of being in access one minute, and sitting on the sidelines the next.
“We’re talking about 17 different intelligence community agencies and 43 different components of the Department of Defense,” said Hanauer. “So, you can imagine if each of them has different process or a different approach for accepting their clearances that’s just a recipe for delays, for increased costs, and for slowed processes, slowed work.”
Contractors are often disproportionately affected by those mobility delays, with 2-5 week processes just to transfer eligibility between one agency’s SCIF and another.
“Much of that time might have me sitting with my new company…in other words, I was sitting in a SCIF yesterday, but it will take me weeks to get into another,” said Greg Torres, director of personnel security at Booz Allen and chair of the personnel security working group at INSA.
With approximately 1 million cleared contractors and INSA estimates that 15% of those industry cleared workers are affected by mobility issues each year – that is a significant cost in both time, money, and ability to place the right individuals into the right positions.
“You may not get the best people on a project, you’re getting the people the agency will support. This all has an impact on the mission,” said Hanauer.
Moving the Mark Past Reciprocity
Security clearance reciprocity is another topic INSA has addressed and that frequently comes up in security clearance reform conversations.
“The reciprocity decision is only one piece of the 2-5 weeks it can take to move individuals,” said Torres. “Reciprocity is one thing, and it’s very small, but mobility is talking about the whole end to end process of moving someone from one classified program and sitting in another classified program.”
Reciprocity figures may be significantly lower than the reality of how long it takes to transfer clearance eligibility. Without the right steps toward improving mobility, the issue of sitting in a Pentagon visitor’s center and waiting to be escorted into an office as you await further access are all too real.
INSA offers several recommendations for improving security clearance mobility, including specific recommendations to the DoD, IC, and ODNI.
Other Hot Topics in Clearance Reform
Mobility isn’t the only security clearance hot topic INSA has addressed and will address. Here are other key topics in security clearance reform:
- Trusted Workforce 2.0
- Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)
- Insider Threats
- Foreign Ties and Clearances
- Adjudicative Guidelines vs. Commercial Vetting Guidelines