They've got what you want

Steve LeSueur

Question: Where do contractors get workers with security clearances?

Answer: From their competitors.

Last year, the average security clearance took more than a year to complete, and the situation isn't improving. That's because about 360,000 security clearance applications still await approval, including 188,000 for contractor personnel.

In a recent survey of government contractors by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, 70 percent of respondents said the only way they can hire cleared personnel right now is by luring them away from other contractors or the government.

"We are essentially recycling people, typically at increased cost to our customer because we need to provide a sign-on bonus or something else to convince people to move," said Michael Patrick, director of workforce recruitment and planning for Northrop Grumman Information Technology.

Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery, who examined this growing problem for this issue, recently attended a House hearing on the security-clearance backlog. A Defense Department official told lawmakers the Pentagon is hiring 200 new investigators, a number far too small to satisfy either Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va) or Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose districts are home to many contractors and government employees.

"We've got a war on, and you're telling us to be patient. It's not acceptable," Moran said.

"Get back to us and tell us what you need," Davis added.

Emery's story, and the solutions proposed by contractors, begins on page 1.

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