Does a clearance earn you more money?

There is a significant backlog in security clearance processing which is only getting worse.  According to David Berteau, CEO of the Professional Services Council, the backlog increased 22% in 2016. Processing times are averaging 105 days for Secret and 214 days for a Top Secret.  In practical terms, this means you need to already have an active clearance to be considered for a cleared job. Demand is rising for cleared professionals. What does this mean to your bottom line?

As a recruiter on the front lines, this is what I can report on the practical impact of the security clearance processing backlog:
  • Cleared jobs are staying open longer and in some cases going completely unfilled.
  • Cleared professionals can easily move between jobs, causing instability on programs and in the market.
  • It is easier to hire for clearance and teach some of the skills on the job than to hire for skills and get the clearance.  (Caveat: the basic labor category requirements still need to be met).
  • Employers will pay a premium to hire a cleared person but only to the extent that the government contract labor category allows. As most contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, there is usually very little room to adjust compensation to market demands.

In practical terms, a Secret or Top Secret clearance may bring a small salary increase, maybe a few thousand dollars a year, or a sign-on bonus. The real battle for talent begins at the polygraph level. Above Top Secret some programs require SCI and a Counterintelligence (CI) poly or the more robust Full Scope Poly (FSP).  SCI and Polygraph add a year or more to the already lengthy Top Secret clearance processing time.

We have far too few people who are cleared at the polygraph level to do the work required. To make matters worse, some intelligence agencies will not accept a polygraph from another agency. Employers will pay a salary premium for polygraph clearances, but only to the extent feasible under the contract labor category rates (which may have been set in stone years ago).

Next week we will talk about some of the more successful non-monetary approaches employers are using to attract and retain cleared talent.

–Patti Cusack
Artemis Precision Search