Artillery: May 11, 2004


The U.S. military is having a hard time holding on to its most experienced IT (Information Technology) people because of aggressive recruiting by firms hired to upgrade computer systems needed for the war on terror. All these Homeland Defense and war on terror systems are classified, and few IT specialists (programmers, technicians and managers) have security clearances. Because there is such a demand for security clearances in general right now (again, war on terror, Homeland Defense, expanding FBI and CIA, Etc.), there is a backlog. Many projects are slowed, or stalled, because the IT people who have been hired, cannot get to work until they get their security clearance. It didnt take long for IT recruiters to note that there were hundreds of NCOs and officers retiring from the military each year, who had IT experience, and a security clearance. All of a sudden, these retirees are hot. And the money is good. The retirees can expect to earn at least what they were making in the military (even while they collect half or three quarters of that as retirement pay). But it gets better. The shortage of IT people with security clearances has led to informal bonuses being paid for IT people who already have clearances. The lowest level clearance (SECRET) will get you five percent more in pay. A TOP SECRET clearance (the most common one needed for sensitive work), gets about 20 percent and higher clearances (which usually involve a lie detector test) get 30 percent or more. The military background of the retirees, and their familiarity with working with the government, helps as well. While the retirees dont usually have technical skills as good as civilian job candidates, it doesn't matter much as most retirees are  being hired for management or supervisory positions. Its easier for the retirees to bush up on their technical skills than it is to find people who know the IT basics, have the government background, and possess that precious security clearance. 

The problem with all this is that the money is so good on the civilian side that people are retiring as soon as they are able. Normally, the military tries to keep these people in via the higher (75 percent instead of 50) percent of pay for retirement at 30 years, and better assignments. Plus the chance for a little more rank, which will also boost the pension. The military had a good few years with its IT people because of the Internet Bubble going bust four years ago, and there not being a lot of demand for retired military IT people. But now a disaster is looming in the military as the attractive jobs for work on government contracts tempts away some very difficult to replace people.


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