Government solution providers say they expect to see dramatic changes in security in the wake of the Washington Navy Yard shooting spree that resulted in the death of 12 people in addition to the man authorities said is responsible for the shooting.
That individual, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old Navy veteran, worked at The Experts, a solution provider based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with a government-focused practice based in the Washington, D.C., area.
"One can only assume contractors are going to be looked at more closely with regard to background checks and clearance," said a 30-year executive for a government integrator in the Washington, D.C., area, who did not want to be identified. "I am sure there are people out there right now who have clearance that shouldn't. I think the government has to make a decision on whether it will review all clearances it has provided and start looking more closely at people."
The government IT executive speculated that federal agencies may ask supervisors overseeing government contracts to immediately flag "out of the ordinary" behavior of government contractors. "These things just don't happen. There are always signs, whether it is Fort Hood or Sandy Hook," he said. "This is very, very sad. You have 12 innocent victims that were just going to work on Monday morning, trying to make a living, just like you and me."
Changes already appear to be under way. President Obama Tuesday ordered an extensive review of the security clearance process. An official review already is being undertaken by the office of the Director of National Intelligence. That review stems from a 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office that highlighted the extensive costs associated with conducting an investigation on individuals seeking top-secret clearances.
"At the president's direction, OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] is examining standards for contractors and employees across federal agencies," said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. "This is obviously a matter that the president believes and has believed merits review."
The CEO for a Southeast government integrator, who did not want to be identified, said he believes the Navy Yard shooting ultimately will lead to changes in how IT contractors are approved to be on a government site. "It's going to take more paperwork to get contractors on-site," he said.
What's more, he believes there will be increased use of biometric security on government facilities. "There ought to be retina scans to get into these bases," the CEO said.
Industry observers and recruiters involved in placing IT talent in the public and private sectors told CRN that hiring should involve taking into account more than a candidate's credentials.
"As an industry we put way too much emphasis on certifications and documentation and that winds up clouding our judgment when it comes down to people, talent and capability," said Lee J. Kushner, founder and CEO of L. J. Kushner and Associates, a firm that specializes in recruiting information security professionals.
NEXT: Tighter Restrictions Coming For Government Contractors?
The impact of the Navy Yard shooting, combined with the fallout from lapses at the National Security Agency that enabled Edward Snowden to pilfer thousands of documents, could result in tighter restrictions on contractors, industry observers and recruiters say. Lucrative contracts can be tied up by extensive security clearance reviews and it can be more expensive to do business, increasing costs not only for contractors but also for taxpayers funding technology projects.
Smaller IT providers already have a difficult time landing government contract work, said Jeff Snyder, president of SecurityRecruiter.com, a job placement firm for network and IT security professionals. Executives typically have to have connections inside the Beltway, Snyder said.
Security professionals with government clearances typically end up working at Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and other defense contractors, Snyder said.
"If you have a means to get a clearance and you go down that path, the jobs are plentiful," Snyder said.
A Washington, D.C.-based security expert with strong ties to federal agencies, who declined to be named, said security restrictions are already very high for law enforcement and people involved with intelligence gathering. The government relies heavily on IT contractors because it can't fill all the needed cybersecurity and other technology jobs, he said.
A Department of Defense employee told CRN that obtaining a general clearance to gain access to a base for a specific project is not very difficult to acquire. The extent of the process is based on the level of clearance; references are obtained, and those seeking clearance are required to fill out an extensive questionnaire for national security positions. Clearance provides permission to access resources specific to the project under contract, the employee told CRN. Restricted information is kept on a need-to-know basis.
The 30-year government IT executive said his firm and others are diligent in reviewing everything from background checks and references and rely heavily on government security procedures.
"I don't know how much more we can do," he said. "When the government provides a clearance, we assume the government has done its job. There is nothing more we can do short of hiring a private investigator to look at an employee, which from a financial standpoint is impossible."
PUBLISHED SEPT. 18, 2013