Top Secret America: 854,000 People Hold Security Clearances

But What Are They Actually Doing?

Everyone seems to up in arms about this figure. It’s seen as confirmation that we have too many spies, too many analysts, and generally too much of everything associated with top secret work. While that may be true this number isn’t quite the slam dunk many think it is because encapsulates countless people who are only indirectly involved in the handling of intelligence or classified material.

To understand what this number means you have to first have some appreciation of what is involved in staffing and supporting a secured project or facility. The nature of the work often requires that administrative and facilities staff, down to the janitor level for example, be cleared at some level. White it’s undoubtedly true that some of this work is inappropriately classified the process of compartmentalizing access (think need to know) actually works pretty well most of the time.

A good place to get a feel for what these projects look like, and how they’re staffed is my former employer’s career site. SAIC has countless Top Secret, Top Secret SCI, and other cleared jobs in their database. A quick scan reveals the following:

Supply and Material Manager – Top Secret
JOB DESCRIPTION: Provide logistics and supply expertise in support of the JDICE team at Nellis AFB, NV.

Candidate will perform material and equipment acquisition for in-house and project related material and supply requirements, identify vendors capable of providing material, equipment, and supplies for specific requirements, issue requests for quotes to qualified vendors, evaluate vendor quotes for specific components and determine the best value approach for fulfilling material requirements, develop purchase orders for specific requirements for Air Force and OSD equipment, ensure compliance with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Department of Defense Acquisition Regulations for material acquisition, utilize spreadsheets and hand receipts for developing, issuing, and tracking material. Candidate will monitor, store and issue government furnished equipment and material for regular office and test specific use, and act as the organization’s alternate Telephone Control Officer, equipment custodian and supply liaison. Additionally, candidate will also provide logistical support, equipment, supplies and personnel to facilitate effective and efficient execution of JDICE activities. Must be willing to travel (approximately 10%).

Not exactly James Bond is it? In your company you probably refer to this as the “wharehouse guy.”

Help Desk Support Specialist IV – Top Secret

The Enterprise Support Technician will be a member of a larger EST staff providing help desk functions to the Theater Command, Control, Communications, Computer & Intelligence (C4I) Support Center (TSCS) – Belvoir Operations Center. EST personnel will be the entry point of all calls to TCSC-Belvoir Operations Center and will coordinate TCSC network information and updates to the TCSC COMSTAT Report with the USSOUTHCOM TNCC. Enterprise Support Technician will analyze the TNCC-published TCSC COMSTAT networks service call report and make recommendations to reduce the number of TCSC-related future calls by responding to key problems. EST candidate will refine user training, develop online help screens, and provide input to TNCC. EST may be required to remotely monitor Network monitoring consoles after normal duty hours. EST will provide preliminary screening of problems and requests and forward those issues that cannot be resolved by the EST to the appropriate TCSC section, team, or staff member for action. Additional duties include creating user accounts, performing routine scheduled enterprise maintenance and daily back-ups of servers, as well as administering the Blackberry Enterprise Services for TCSC-SOUTHCOM customers. May be required to work a rotating shift.

A Top Secret Help Desk guy is, at the end of the day, still just a help desk guy.

These are just a few examples but countless non-cleared positions in the workforce have their cleared counterpart performing equally boring work off somewhere else – hopefully quietly. It’s usually not as exciting as it would appear. In fact it’s usually quite tedious and boring in the way that only government or government contractor work can be. So, the spies, analysts, and super-genius scientists who reverse engineer UFOs, are out there but they’re a fraction of the 854,000 figure that everyone is throwing around in disgust at the moment.

The great majority of the 854,000 people with top secret security clearances thrive within expensive offices located in the United States. The number of heroes protecting Americans by gathering intelligence in foreign countries is tiny. – Ishmael Jones, The Corner

Blogs of WarJohn Little has been breaking national security news and leveraging thousands of conflict, intelligence, security, technology & political sources to provide level-headed analysis in a complex news environment since 2002.