DoD temporarily halts contractor background checks
Two information technology groups want the Department of Defense to reverse its decision to halt the processing of security clearances for contractors because of monetary constraints.
The Defense Security Service blamed overwhelming demand and a budget shortfall for the halt, which caught the government contracting community by surprise. Already, 3,000 applications have been put on hold, Cindy McGovern, a DSS spokeswoman told The Washington Post.
“We’re holding [the applications] now to see if we can resolve the issue. The more drastic step would be not accepting them” at all, Ms. McGovern said, a step the agency considered but dropped for now.
The demand for clearances among private companies has grown dramatically since the Sept. 11 attacks as the government increasingly relies on contractors to do intelligence gathering and work on classified programs. There has been growing frustration with the wait time, which some companies have described as up to a year, to obtain clearances for new employees. Some firms have reverted to gimmicks and large bonuses to attract employees with pre-existing clearances, and industry officials worry that this week’s action will increase competition and salary demands, the Post reports.
The move affects not only defense contractors, but also those who work on projects for more than 20 other agencies, including NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.
“We have companies right now that have positions that are funded that they can’t find people for,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. “This could completely shut the system down.”
The Defense Security Service blames, in part, the sheer volume of requests. Between October and March, more than 100,000 security-clearance applications were submitted.
Federal Computer Week reports that the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is calling on Congress to pass legislation requiring DoD to resume processing security clearance applications.
The ITAA says the Pentagon must devote sufficient resources to overcome a glut in the system that is threatening to halt key national security initiatives.
“Companies working on national security projects will not be able to finish the job without the ability to sustain the cleared personnel on the job and to bring in more when needed,” ITAA executive vice president Olga Grkavac says in a statement.