In the SETA world, poaching still occurs between contractors and government at locations like Fort Meade. There is a 37% attrition rate for contracting professionals leaving NSA and a lot of recruiting issues come along with high turnover. After learning more about the nature of Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contracts, you will find that there are challenges of  working on non-SETA projects (like software development or IT services) as opposed to SETA efforts.

SETA professionals are government contractors who are employed to assist the DoD and acquisition programs. SETA contractors often work side-by-side with government. But embarking on these contracts may look inviting after competing with the commercial world for software development candidates.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT in a tight labor market

You need to have good mentors no matter the type of contract you are supporting in national security. Good professional development practices will help with attrition and retention.

But in fields like high performance computing or software development, you have companies like Google, banks, and big pharma coming after Fort Meade’s security engineers and data scientists. They know that Fort Meade is a target rich environment for candidates and are offering people commercial salaries without a security requirement – all while working from home. The mission cannot be executed from your basement, however.

The workforce generally is shrinking – even amongst agencies in Maryland. DISA has telecommuting for years, and people can work there with a TS (without the SCI and poly). Agencies like NSA are in a battle – but the most convincing piece for candidate’s motivations can be patriotism.

Large businesses have had to choose if they are SETA or non-SETA at other agencies in the IC – and choosing to be a SETA business can be easier to staff over national security technical projects, because it is easier to attract those people to this field where there isn’t a ton of remote work and candidates seem flexible.

The other huge plus for recruiters is that it seems like the Maryland Procurement Office (MPO) at Fort Meade has recently been open to labor category waiver strategies to allow for more entry-level SETA contractors to come in.

Contractors should think about what staffing contracts may look like even as soon as they are in the proposal capture phase…and SETA seems like it could be a good option for staffing professionals.



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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸