join military

Christopher Michel: Your Security Clearance - A Perishable Asset
Christopher Michel: Your Security Clearance - A Perishable Asset

The Naval Institute

This commentary is provided courtesy of the Naval Institute, the Independent Forum on National Defense. Membership at the Naval Institute includes:

  • Annual Naval Review Almanac
  • Generous discounts on books from Naval Institute
  • Discounts on Naval History magazine
  • Discounted admission at seminars
  • U.S. Naval Institute credit card program
  • Discounts and upgrades on car rentals

    For all this and more, join the Naval Institute at $10 off the regular subscription price.

    Proceedings Article Index

    Chris Michel Article Index

    Printer-Friendly Format

    Related Links

    Security Clearance Center - Learn how to get security clearance, and find the latest related job postings.

    Career Center - Job boards, tipsand advice, networks, and more.

    Get Breaking Military News Alerts

    July 2004

      Email this page to friends

    Eventually, the time comes for many of us to evaluate the marketability of the skills, qualifications, and experiences we have gained through military service. We hope a prospective employer will appreciate our proven leadership abilities, sharp intellect, and valuable training -- fortunately, many do. One of the most valuable, and perpetually underestimated, qualifications that many of us bring to the table is our active security clearances. Today, thousands of employers are in a desperate hunt for cleared individuals to support a myriad of government agencies and programs. Qualified job seekers will find they have a tremendous leg up on noncleared candidates and, almost certainly, will benefit from a salary premium. Unfortunately, many people let their security clearances lapse. An active clearance is a commodity that must be actively maintained and managed.

    With the global war on terror in full bloom, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, significant increases in defense spending, and the growing intelligence community, there never has been a greater demand for employees to work on classified programs. This strong demand has put a significant strain on the Defense Security Service (DSS), the government agency responsible for conducting background checks for the Department of Defense and other agencies. In fact, a recent report on DSS indicated it had a backlog of more than 500,000 applicants. Unfortunately for government and civilian employers, it can take noncleared employees between six months and two years to receive a new clearance -- an unacceptable time frame for many organizations that have significant contracts to deliver in the near term. In addition, the clearance process often is very expensive.

    A government security clearance requires a periodic reinvestigation every 15 years for a "confidential" clearance, every 10 years for "secret," and every 5 years for "top secret." When a clearance is inactivated (because of switching jobs or leaving the military), it can be fairly easy to reinstate within the first 24 months, as long as that falls within the periodic reinvestigation window. After that, it becomes significantly more difficult. In other words, if your clearance is going to lapse, it is important for you to consider some options to reactivate it within the first two years.

    The easiest way for transitioned military members to maintain their clearances is to take "cleared" positions with companies or government agencies. There certainly is no shortage of those opportunities today. A quick search among the nation's top job boards finds thousands of open positions for individuals with active clearances. In addition, the official job board of the U.S. government, www.USAJobs.com, run by the Office of Personnel Management, lists more than 2,000 positions requiring some type of clearance-- from the intriguing "supervisory intelligence officer" position at the Defense Intelligence Agency to the slightly more mundane "staff auditor." Browsing the site is both highly entertaining and might lead you to your next career.

    Another approach for keeping your clearance active is service in the National Guard or reserves. "Many of the jobs we have in the Guard and reserve require a security clearance," said Thomas F. Hall, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. "Your continued affiliation should allow you to maintain your active clearance for years." Reserve and Guard service allows you to keep this valuable asset intact, regardless of whether your current employer requires a clearance.

    Finally, there are specialty staffing companies that assist defense contractors and government agencies to fill temporary and full-time positions with cleared individuals. "We provide our employees the opportunity to work on tremendously important client projects. In addition to allowing flexible work schedules, we work actively to ensure our employees are able to maintain their security clearances," said Bob Merkl, president of Secure IT Services, a staffing firm specializing in connecting cleared people with public- and private-sector opportunities. Companies seeking cleared candidates, he said, often pay a 5-20% salary premium.

    Your active security clearance is one of the hottest tickets in town, don't let it expire.

    2004 Christopher Michel. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

    About the Author

    Christopher Michel is CEO of Military.com, the nation's largest military membership organization. Military.com connects over 3 million members to the lifelong benefits of military service. Members trust Military.com for career, education and financial services. Prior to founding Military.com, Chris served as a Naval Flight Officer in the United States Navy. While on active duty, Chris flew as a P-3 Navigator, Tactical Coordinator and Mission Commander in support of maritime interdiction operations in the Red Sea, NATO enforcement operations in the Adriatic, and counter-narcotics missions in Central America. Following his operational tour, Chris worked in the Pentagon as Aide to the Chief of the Naval Reserve. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Harvard Business School.



    Member Center

    FREE Newsletter

    Military Report

    Equipment Guides

    Installation Guides

    Military History

    © 2017 Military Advantage
    A Monster Company.