[ISN] Security Clearance Requirements Spark IT Talent War

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Nov 12 2001 - 23:41:59 PST

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    By Gail Repsher Emery, Washington Technology
    12 Nov 2001, 11:55 AM CST
    Information technology contractors say it is becoming increasingly
    difficult to fill job openings that require high-level government
    security clearances, despite a flood of new applicants.
    Since the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, technology
    contractors doing sensitive work for the U.S. government also have
    seen greater interest from job seekers, executives and recruiters
    said. Intelligence agencies have seen a surge in job applications as
    Americans seek to join the war against terrorism.
    This interest, coupled with the dot-com fallout that softened the
    market for technology professionals, has been good news for government
    contractors, some of whom have hundreds of job openings. But IT
    executives now confront a new dilemma: how to find enough people with
    the credentials to work on high-priority jobs, such as intelligence
    agency IT contracts.
    Hot areas are information security and investigative services, said
    Don Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer of High
    Performance Technologies Inc. in Arlington, Va. The IT consulting
    firms clients include the Air Force Systems Center in Dayton, Ohio,
    and the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.
    Northrop Grumman Information Technology has about 800 job openings.
    Many are filled within 45 days, but others remain open much longer,
    said Jeff Shuman, vice president of human resources and administration
    for the Herndon, Va., unit of Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp.
    The IT units customers include the Internal Revenue Service, the
    Justice Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.
    Some of the individuals on the market don't have the security
    clearances or the technical skills that we need, Shuman said. There's
    still a talent war.
    In response to the demand for highly skilled IT professionals who can
    take on top-secret jobs, Paul-Tittle Search Group in McLean, Va., has
    expanded its recruiting of critical infrastructure protection
    personnel people who can work on the cyber and physical protection of
    national assets, including telecommunications, electric power systems,
    emergency services and continuity of government services.
    Over the past two or three years, 33 percent of the firms business has
    been with the federal intelligence sector. In the next three months,
    that figure will rise to 60 percent, said Dave Tittle, president.
    Two of the firms biggest clients are the National Imagery and Mapping
    Agency and the CIA, Tittle said. Its unusual for the two agencies to
    use an outside search firm, but today its necessary to find the right
    people, who might not be in the job market, he said. Paul-Tittles
    other clients include private-sector firms doing work for the
    Often, candidates are willing to accept huge pay cuts $50,000 in one
    case to use their skills in service to the nation, said Bruce Phinney,
    vice president and director of the firms federal search practice.
    People who hold security clearances frequently top-secret clearance
    with special access to a particular type of information are so
    important, Phinney said, that clients will be flexible on academic and
    technical qualifications if a candidate has the right clearances.
    The need for employees with security clearances has led companies such
    as McDonald Bradley Inc. of McLean, Va., to be more creative in its
    recruiting, said Gayle Levin, employment manager. Clients of the IT
    services firm include the Justice Department, the Army and the
    National Reconnaissance Office.
    McDonald Bradley recently launched a one-month effort to recruit
    employees holding security clearances, offering $3,000 bonuses to
    employees whose referrals are hired. The firms usual referral bonus is
    $1,000, Levin said.
    In addition to specific technical skills and security clearances,
    experience is also critical, recruiters and executives said.
    We emphasize not just skill, but experience and character, given the
    mission-critical nature of our work, said David Langstaff, president
    and chief executive officer of Veridian Corp. of Arlington, Va.
    Veridians work includes cybersecurity, datamining and nuclear,
    biological and chemical sciences. The company needs a subset of people
    on the job market, Langstaff said, those who have technical skills,
    who can reinforce relationships with customers and who can get
    Its a relatively small pool, said Langstaff, who has about 200 job
    openings. Because that pool of talent is fairly shallow, some
    government IT contractors will consider bringing on employees who can
    be trained while they pursue security clearances.
    Levin, for example, looks even more closely at candidates backgrounds
    these days to determine if new recruits have an aptitude for a new
    skill and an interest in training and the pursuit of a clearance.
    McDonald Bradley will hire non-cleared personnel and provide training
    while candidates go through the six- to 18-month clearance process,
    she said.
    So, too, will Northrop Grumman IT, Shuman said.
    It does take an investment, he said. [The trainees] do real work and
    add value to the company. We use it as opportunity to train so they
    are well-equipped to take on new roles.
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