The uncertainty over the change in presidential administrations that has affected some other sectors has not had any measurable impact on civilian contractor overseas jobs, according to Charmaine Bell at Engility Corporation. However, that is subject to change depending on “what’s happening around the world, the federal budget, and of course the current political landscape,” she added.
For the most part, the application process for overseas jobs is very much the same as the process for stateside jobs. Naturally, there are a few wrinkles. First, recruiters handle nearly every detail of overseas jobs, from matching candidates with openings to facilitating the interview and hiring process. Second, there are some additional requirements, such as a passport, a visa, and a valid security clearance. That last item is often the most troublesome. Even many low-level positions usually require some level of clearance, and processing a request for Secret access can take as long as six months, depending on background checks and other variables. As a result, according to Vectrus talent acquisition manager Josh Saye, many recruiters prefer working with individuals who already have some form of security clearance.
Sometimes, the recruiter or contractor handles all these ancillary items, and other times, the employee is responsible for some or all of them.
With the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars fading from the headlines, and no one particularly anxious to send troops to Syria and address the ISIS threat, military contractor jobs are not quite as sought after as they were during the late 2000s and early 2010s. But there is still a very brisk market, especially for people with specialized skill sets.
Traditionally, that means interpreters, as the DoD and State Department generally do not give lessons in conversational Arabic. Lately, however, that also means IT professionals. In fact, just last month, Princeton-based Mission1st signed a $10 million deal to install and operate sophisticated communications and electronics equipment for the 335th Signal Command in Kuwait and Afghanistan. That is in addition to an $8 million contract the firm recently received to provide similar services to the U.S. Army Central Command. In addition to techs and engineers, Mission1st will probably hire trainers, to eventually hand over operational control to Army personnel.
Contractors will probably provide most or all of these services, with limited assistance from some local builders and a few key servicepeople.
Construction projects should be active, as well. Jihad Yagazi, who edits the prestigious Syria Report, estimates that it could cost $200 billion over 50 years to rebuild Syria, even if the civil war in that country ended today. In addition to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and power plants will probably be the top priority, since many refugees will not return home unless and until such services are available and accessible.
Typically, large overseas construction projects employ lots of contractors as stateside planners and onsite managers. Locals do much of the actual construction work, both to establish goodwill and save money, so there is also a need for interpreters. These projects often use military contractors as well, because as we now know, an insurgency basically has no end date.
Obtaining and Keeping a Security Clearance
All government agencies use roughly the same process:
- Secure an offer of employment in a position that requires a security clearance,
- Complete and submit the SF-86 or other questionnaire,
- Wait for the agency to complete a background check and verify references,
- Complete a face-to-face interview, and
- Wait for a decision that conforms with existing investigation guidelines.
Most applications are approved for at least a limited clearance unless there is some glaring insufficiency, inconsistency, or other issue.
Security clearance holders must submit to frequent rechecks, usually at least once every other year. To make a determination, most federal agencies use some variation of the guidelines in DoD Directive 5220.6, which evaluates security clearance holders in several areas, including:
- Allegiance: Membership in any organizations that promote or are sympathetic to international terrorism is usually grounds for adverse action, unless the holder can prove that the affiliation was limited to charity work or something similar.
- Foreign Preference or Influence: Contractors must be careful here, since because they voluntarily left the U.S. to live overseas, they may be susceptible to foreign influence in the eyes of an investigator.
- Financial Problems: Many people think that bankruptcy is grounds for clearance revocation, but that’s not the case.
Substance abuse issues, if they are chronic and unmanaged, are also grounds for adverse action, as are criminal conduct, some emotional problems, and some other items.
Nonmilitary contractors who are injured overseas are usually entitled to monetary compensation. To find out more, reach out to Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel.