WASHINGTON, D.C. – Security clearance reciprocity remains a major problem for federal contractors, despite recently touted initiatives and established reciprocity laws, according to a survey released today by TechAmerica, the nation’s leading trade association, representing over 1,000 ICT companies.
An astonishing 96 percent of companies surveyed, reported trouble transferring cleared personnel between agency contracts. The worst offender, according to the responses was indisputably the Department of Homeland Security. Almost three quarters of respondents said that DHS was the most difficult agency to deal with for clearance reciprocity.
“While the survey did identify some areas of improvement, the results were stark and clear. Federal agencies are not adhering to existing clearance reciprocity laws, resulting in massive inefficiencies in time, effort and money. The U.S. government is squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on a redundant clearance system,” said Greg Keeley, Vice President of Defense, Intelligence and Homeland Security Policy at Tech America.
Surveyed companies overwhelmingly agreed that improved adherence to reciprocity laws would lower company costs, increase company effectiveness and efficiency, and improve their ability to recruit highly skilled personnel. More streamlined reciprocity would directly translate to improved cost effectiveness, higher quality and a better value proposition for the US government and ultimately taxpayers.
The Government recognizes the problem remains. Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General for the Government Accountability Office told Congress that, “ensuring reciprocal acceptance of existing clearances between agencies is still a challenge.” Dodaro testified before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing in June.
The survey results follow the House passage of the FY 2013 Intelligence Authorization Bill which, in part, directs the President to develop a strategy and timeline within 180 days to establish working guidance for reciprocity of security clearances between departments of the Federal Government and the specific circumstances under which an agency will not recognize a security clearance issued by another department.
Since 2005, the U.S. government has sought to overhaul the national security clearance system. Inefficiency has plagued contracting companies requiring cleared employees. The federal response under the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, and later by executive order in 2008, attacked this issue by demanding that government agencies improve internal efficiency and standardize the clearance process. Under a standardized “reciprocity” system personnel could move between agencies easily, saving time and money.
In June 2012, the GAO and other investigative agencies reported that the internal efficiency of the process has greatly improved. Yet while the period of time to receive a clearance has shortened considerably, companies are still frustrated by the refusal of government agencies to recognize reciprocal clearance laws.
The survey was conducted by TechAmerica and involved TechAmerica members who represent the largest defense contracting firms in the industry.
An in-depth interview with Greg Keeley can be found here.