Govt IT: Security Clearance Needed

Stricter security clearance requirements for government IT workers are making it hard to fill jobs.

Needed: One IT professional with excellent technology skills, a willingness to travel 75 percent of the week and top security clearance from the U.S. government.

Unfortunately, few people in the U.S. work force fit that profile, as IT consultancy Orizon Inc. discovered when it tried to staff its first project for the FBI in early 1999. As a subcontractor on the project, Orizon was charged with helping modernize the FBIs computer systems across the country.

"We had problems with staffing right from the beginning because finding the right talent out there was not easy," said Michael McLean, executive vice president at the Rockville, Md., company.

The demand for IT workers with security clearance has only grown since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The federal government is determined to break down the information "stovepipes" among the vast bureaucracies of executive branch agencies and integrate their networks, an endeavor that requires considerable outside expertise. At the same time, the governments preoccupation with security has limited eligibility to those with security clearance.


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Where once no clearance was needed for midlevel federal IT jobs, today even entry-level jobs at the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security often can be filled only by cleared employees. The clearance process, never quick and easy, today is backlogged, leaving most major federal contractors with hundreds of IT positions unfilled.

The technology industry is lobbying to have the clearance process simplified and is pressing for hearings this spring. The industry has suggested that private-sector assessors be employed to reduce the adjudication backlog and that a system be created to allow agencies and contractors to share cleared workers. Companies are also looking for a fundamental system of investigation for standard clearances and a tiered system for more complicated clearances.

Next page: Turning to recruitment companies.