16 Dec Construction of U.S. submarines delayed by lack of background check staff
General Dynamics Electric Boat is the company entrusted with building submarines for the United States Navy, a role it has played for more than a century. This week, Electric Boat has been in the news for something new: background checks.
Per a report from NBC Connecticut, Electric Boat currently has conditional offers of employment out to about 165 candidates. The company is looking to hire all of these people—and potentially even more—before the end of the year. However, because of a background check backlog at the federal level, it’s unclear how soon any of the candidates with conditional offers of employment will be able to start work.
As coverage explains, Electric Boat’s background check process is not that of a standard employer. All the people the company hires must get security clearances from the federal government. These high-level background checks are more extensive than the average employment background check. As a result, security clearance checks tend to take longer than average employment checks.
A representative from the Office of Personnel Management—the department in charge of federal background checks—said that security clearances should take an average of about 40 days. Some of the people waiting for their Electric Boat checks have been waiting for a year or more.
Based on the NBC Connecticut report, the problem dates to 2014 when the OPM let a contract expire with several of its background investigators. Because of that occurrence, the OPM lost some of its workforce for background checks. The department is looking for new background investigators right now, but until it finds some, the OPM needs to process the normal number of security clearance checks with fewer people to do the work. The background check backlog is a product of this diminished productivity rate.
Electric Boat hired 1,400 new people this year. 165 are currently waiting for background checks. As coverage notes, the slower screening process has made some of Electric Boat’s would-be employees impatient. Some are contacting their union representative while others have been forced to take other jobs to make ends meet. Until the OPM can get the background check pipeline moving again, Electric Boat is looking for ways to expedite other parts of their hiring process. The company’s reported hope is that, by being faster about interviewing candidates and making employment offers, they will be able to offset the delay.