Page Two

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-05-03 Print this article Print

In the meantime, federal contractors that are unable to supply the needed workers themselves have turned to recruitment companies to locate cleared personnel. Orizon, which now has contracts with the DOD, the Department of the Treasury, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has sponsored approximately eight employees for security clearances, but the process is usually too slow for the job at hand, according to McLean.

To get people on the job in a timely fashion, Orizon looks to Secure IT, a division of Comsys Services LLC that specializes in finding cleared IT professionals primarily by recruiting military personnel as they prepare to leave the services.

"They understand that world, and they have authorization to work in that world," McLean said about Secure IT.

Approximately one-third of the employees recruited through Secure IT have military backgrounds, McLean said.

Because federal contracts tend to be very large and long-term, almost all the major contractors have to turn to outside sources to fill skilled positions, said Bob Merkl, president and chief operating officer of Secure IT, in Rockville, Md. With the security-clearance process taking anywhere from six months to two years, few contractors try to sponsor all the workers needed, Merkl said.

"Most companies are very reluctant to sponsor anybody. Its a Catch-22," Merkl said. "Even for people who have led relatively choirboy lives," the process is long and cumbersome, he said.

Merkl, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and retired from active military duty in 1998, leverages his contacts to identify IT professionals with clearances. Secure IT usually targets senior enlisted personnel and officers, about 75 percent of whom are already cleared, he said.

"If you can get people before they lose their clearances, then you dont have to go through the bureaucracy to get them certified again," Merkl said.

A security clearance adds about a 5 percent premium to the average IT salary, and a top-secret clearance can add as much as 20 percent, according to Merkl. For those IT professionals willing to take a polygraph test in the clearance process, salaries can be as much as 30 percent higher.

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