Delays in obtaining security clearances are actually the second biggest problem for companies of any size that want to work with members of the intelligence community. The first is what many firms affectionately call the chicken-and-egg problem. Getting a security clearance for corporate personnel is not possible without having a contract that requires secured personnel; however, companies cannot be awarded a contract that requires security clearances until they have personnel that have received security clearances.
Emily Noreiga, former program manager, Provisional Industrial Security Approval (PISA) Sponsorship Program, NSA, attempted to shed some light on this subject during the final presentation at the AFCEA Small Business Intelligence Forum in Fairfax, Virginia, held earlier today. She did not attempt to brush aside the chicken-and-egg dilemma but rather acknowledged it as a serious issue. However, she explained that companies could make inroads in this area by seeking a facility clearance first. This is not approving a facility as secure; it is a background investigation of a company's leaders to ensure that the firm is legitimate and no security issues exist.
Intelligence organizations can view these organizations as ones they would like to pursue business with in the future, Noreiga explained. The NSA recommends that facilities clearances be sought for the Top Secret level, she added.
In terms of personnel clearances, the purpose of the PISA program is to expand the NSA's cleared space. "We want to get companies into the agency," Noreiga stated. In addition, program increases the number of corporate representatives that the NSA can discuss current requirements with, expanding its exposure to innovative capabilities. "Otherwise, it is a one-way conversation. You tell us what you do, but we can't tell you what we need," she said.