Report: DHS Security Clearance Protocols Lack Finesse

Nearly all companies say they have difficulty handling the transfer of security clearances with federal contracts, a process called “security clearance reciprocity.”

by / August 16, 2012

The Department of Homeland Security has huge problem transferring security clearances between agency contracts, according to a new report from a group that represents the interests of the technology industry.

TechAmerica surveyed more than 1,000 companies to gauge their experiences handling the transfer of security clearances with federal contracts, a process called “security clearance reciprocity.” Researchers discovered that 96 percent of respondents struggled with security clearance reciprocity, and almost 75 percent claimed DHS was the most difficult agency to deal with on the issue

Greg Keeley, TechAmerica’s vice president of defense, intelligence and homeland security policy, explained the situation to “The problem is, if you have a clearance at Agency X and you’re doing a job as a contractor or as a federal employee, you can’t move onto Agency Y and the same or similar job with the security clearance,” he said. “You have to take your three, six [or] nine months — whatever it is — to go through the same whole process again and be granted a security clearance.”

TechAmerica released the survey data last week. Download a .pdf of the data here.

• The average time it took 44 percent of companies to grant someone top-level clearance was 180 to 270 days, and 33 percent of respondents said 90 to 180 days;

• The average time it took 37 percent of companies to clear employees onto new contracts at new agencies was 30 to 90 days, and 33 percent said 10 to 30 days; and

• Less than $1 million was the amount of money 74 percent of companies said they spent because of clearance difficulties, while 15 percent said $1 to $5 million.

Most surveyed companies felt that improved adherence to reciprocity laws would lower their costs, increase their effectiveness and improve their ability to recruit skilled personnel.

Gene Dodaro, comptroller for the Government Accountability Office, testified before Congress and admitted that the federal government had problems. “Ensuring reciprocal acceptance of existing clearances between agencies is still a challenge,” he said.

Government Technology contacted DHS about the survey’s claims but didn’t receive a response by press time.

The survey data follows the House of Representatives’ passing of the FY 2013 Intelligence Authorization Bill, which gives President Obama 180 days to establish guidance for security clearance reciprocity between federal departments.