New Paper Calls for Improving Security Clearance Mobility

June 02, 2022

Arlington, VA (June 2, 2022)–According to a new INSA white paper, Improving Security Clearance Mobility: How to Save Time and Resources and Improve Mission Outcomes (pdf), delays in processing the movement of cleared personnel from one government agency to another undermine the efficiency of more than 150,000 cleared contractors each year. Among the roughly 333,000 contractors holding TS/SCI clearances, the population most significantly affected by personnel mobility obstacles, processing delays could hinder the work of as many as 45,000 highly-skilled personnel -- to the detriment of the government’s effectiveness on critical national security challenges.

The federal government’s new Trusted Workforce 2.0 initiative established a goal of processing the transfer of a person’s security clearance from one agency to another – a step called reciprocity – in five days.  But reciprocity only measures the amount of time it takes to move a cleared individual’s eligibility information from one agency’s computer system to another’s. Personnel mobility encompasses the entire time it takes to move a cleared person to a new project to include initiation of the request, additional investigative steps, polygraphs (as needed), re-adjudication of the person’s clearance, and reciprocity decisions. These additional processes routinely take weeks or months – and can often take much longer.

Summing up the problem, INSA Vice President for Policy Larry Hanauer said, “Contractors typically support multiple contracts at multiple agencies, so they need their security clearance to be portable.  The amount of time it takes for a cleared contractor to get approved to work at a second agency hinders the execution of contracts and undermines the government’s effectiveness.”  The problem is especially acute in labor categories in which workers are in short supply, Hanauer added, such as those with the polygraphs needed for sensitive intelligence work.

Produced by INSA’s Security Policy Reform Council, the paper identifies the principal impediment to a more efficient personnel mobility process as inconsistent rules and processes across 17 Intelligence Community (IC) agencies and 43 Defense Department (DOD) components. It offers the following recommendations.

  • Assign a lead DOD official to eliminate component-specific requirements
  • Streamline access to SCI information when needed by adjudicating all Tier 5 (Top Secret) investigations for SCI eligibility at the same time
  • Consider counterintelligence polygraphs sufficient to begin work while waiting to undergo more comprehensive full-scope (lifestyle) polygraphs
  • Provide industry expanded access to clearance repositories so they can assess their staff members’ eligibility for contracts
  • Set consistent adjudication and reciprocity practices across DOD and the IC

“Burdensome rules and inconsistent practices hinder the movement of cleared contractor personnel across government agencies, creating unnecessary delays, increasing costs, and negatively impacting mission effectiveness, Hanauer stated.  “The government should emphasize outcomes and performance over process.”