Security Clearance Backlog Pains Lessened by Online Firm

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The growing number of individuals awaiting government security clearances has always been a painful reality for private contractors. With the present backlog expected to top 200,000 candidates this Summer, a small online firm is helping to cushion the blow to employers.

A recent meeting of the House Government Reform Committee had lawmakers clamoring over the length of time it presently takes an individual to receive a security clearance from the U.S. government. Experts testified that the prolonged delay is more than just a nuisance to defense industry employers, it has turned into a significant national security issue.

At present time, clearing private contractors to work on important homeland and national security projects is taking an average of almost 400 days from beginning to end of the process. At more than three times the amount allotted by the Defense Department, industry employers have increasing numbers of workers getting paid salaries to essentially sit and wait for the clearance to be awarded.

Information technology consultant Immedia Technology Group, Inc. recently chronicled a single candidate through the entire security clearance process from beginning to end. Nicknamed "Project Price" after the individual's surname, weekly updates showed a flawed system highlighted by a frustrated employer and a candidate bored from waiting. Analyst David Morris explains, "The individual we watched spent a little over a year waiting for his clearance to process. During that time, his employer paid him a fairly large salary to essentially sit in reserve. In the end, the candidate received his clearance, but the delay took its toll on all parties."

Rather than paying an individual's salary to complete the clearance process from scratch, an increasing number of defense and homeland security employers are turning to a small online firm that provides immediate access to candidates with active clearances. Online since mid-2002, ClearanceJobs.com is a central repository for job seekers with clearances already in hand. With a registration base eclipsing 13,000 members, private contractors are finding cleared candidates in a single, secure, and easy to use location. Since the resumes listed on ClearanceJobs.com are only from job seekers with active clearances, approved employers drastically reduce their recruiting costs and delay in staffing defense and homeland security projects. ClearanceJobs.com founder Rachel Staras says, "We have seen a 75% increase in employers registered on ClearanceJobs.com in the past year. The clearance backlog has pushed private contractors to new and unique methods of recruitment."

One such unique recruitment method has government contractors employing the use of professional recruiters and search firms that specialize in finding candidates with active security clearances. Willmott Talent Acquisitions is a Massachusetts-based retained research and recruiting firm that works with many top defense department contractors to find new hires. Naturally, services like ClearanceJobs.com are popular with Willmott's recruiting staff. Willmott recruiter Meredith Freeman affirms that ClearanceJobs.com has "cut their resume hunting time in half."

The number of new individuals needing security clearance has been amplified due to increased defense budgets, new homeland security initiatives, and the events of September 11, 2001. Although the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Defense Security Service share the responsibility for investigating potential clearance-holders, only a few new initiatives have been put into place to ease the backlog. The Defense Security Service notes that it was aware of the problem before the recent House Government Reform Committee hearings, and has taken action. Primarily, they have identified areas that slow down investigations, and are in the process of hiring as many as 200 new personnel to assist with the investigation backlog. Still, lawmakers and defense industry experts maintain that more must be done. Until that time, services like ClearanceJobs.com will continue to be the prime resource for employers. Founder Rachel Staras notes, "Our goal from day one was to help private contractors fill open cleared requirements quickly. The fact that we are doing our part to improve national security is a welcomed bonus."

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