The United States Government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services in the global economy. Though billions of dollars of work, services, and goods used by the government is done internally, a much larger amount of that is outsourced to private corporations, through government contractors and sub-contractors. Positions within these firms are abundant and available worldwide, including highly desirable and even high-threat locations for those that qualify. Most contract openings require some level of security clearance and the ability to successfully perform in a high-stress, even life-threatening environment. In this article, we review the basics of obtaining a security clearance, some statistics on job availability across the globe, and the perks of overseas contracting.
Security Clearance Basics
The large majority of openings in this industry require an active clearance as a prerequisite for consideration. This ensures jobs are quickly filled in critical need areas, as clearance checks can take up to two years to process. Personnel with current or active clearance, that are U.S. citizens, are eligible to apply. Below are the three common clearance types needed in contracting:
- Confidential: Access to material that if disclosed could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security. This is the most basic clearance level, requiring renewal every 15 years.
- Secret: Grave damage to national security can be expected if information at this level were to be exposed. Renewal requirements are 10 years.
- Top Secret/Compartmentalized: Access to information that would cause exceptionally grave damage. Reinvestigation required every five years.
If you do not have a security clearance already, don’t give up. There are ways to get one with sponsorship from your current or future employer. Below are the basic steps to obtain a new security clearance:
- Application Phase: Verification of U.S. citizenship, fingerprinting, and completion of Personnel Security Questionnaire (SF-86).
- Background Investigation: Performed by Defense Security Service or FBI.
- Adjudication Phase: Evaluation of findings based on 13 factors including criminal past, personal conduct, substance abuse, and mental disorders.
- Decision: Clearance granted or denied.
Because of the scrutiny involved it is recommended you find out what disqualifying factors are currently in use, before leaving a current position. Be prepared for polygraphs, interviews of neighbors and employers, and credit screenings as well. The process is invasive, but if you are confident in your moral character and past judgment, it is well worth it.
Availability of Work
There are various roles within industries ranging from aerospace to housing with active openings. Professionals in IT, engineering, construction, security, and communication are all needed overseas. Jobs in high-threat areas like Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are in especially high demand; and often financially rewarding. These jobs are generally filled through U.S. based organizations with operations based overseas, leaving CONUS positions as another possibility for those who do not want to go overseas. In 2012, the DoD reported the number of US Citizens working as contractors for the US Central Command (PCSs under Department of State and USAID not included), the results are below:
- Afghanistan: 2,314
- USCENTCOM AOR: 2,014
- DoD PSCs Afghanistan: 2,014
- DoD PSCs Iraq: 102
- Other USCENTCOM Locations: 42,892
Working as a U.S. contractor, especially overseas, gives you a chance to experience new things and truly change your view on life. Seeing the world and learning new cultures, foods, and languages are just some of the amazing benefits in this field. Not to mention it pays extremely well, benefits are included, and job security is high. If you are seeking adventure and opportunity, it’s out there.
TPGS is a mission-oriented organization with a world-class culture, operating with an unparalleled sense of urgency. We provide talent resources for all of the major national defense agencies, as well as some of the nation’s largest contractors. Contact us today if you are seeking a transition from private or government work into contracting, we can help.