Contractor delayed in hiring — Security clearance holds local company from creating 200 jobs, Murray promises inquiry

A local company awarded a fixed-length contract at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has been waiting 18 months for the security clearance necessary to begin part of the work, delaying the creation of about 200 full-time positions and shortening their ultimate duration.

The jobs would be part of a five-year contract awarded Puget Sound Environmental, a Bremerton company to provide fire watch and general labor services. While part of the contract is for work in areas of the shipyard that require only a green clearance, the facility’s lowest level of security clearance, said Rick Lopez, a director at the company, it also includes work in areas requiring what he called “red badge” clearance. It is those jobs, in the red area, that Lopez said the company has not been able to create.

Carlos Moreno, president of the company, said that he intended to hire an all-veteran workforce to fill the positions, partly because veterans often have an easier time getting security clearances, and partly, he said, “because it’s good for the community.”

Moreno said Tuesday that he had sent letters via certified mail as well as emails to the offices of both Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks asking them to look into the delay. Lopez said he had asked WorkSource of Kitsap County for any help they could provide as well.

Lopez said that the security clearance in question is for the company as a whole. Each employee working in a given security zone also has to be cleared, said Lopez, but that process can’t begin until after the company as a whole has been approved.

After repeated calls, George Behan, a spokesman for Dicks, said he could not get in touch with the staffer responsible for handling constituent cases, that he did not know of the company or of any letters or emails sent to the office, and that he could not comment on the issue.

Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for Murray, said that in response to the letter the senator would begin an official inquiry into the status of the inquiry and what could be done to move them along.

“It’s become an issue for certain jobs because because the work needs to be done, but there’s this bureaucracy that needs to be worked at a higher level,” said Margaret Hess of Kitsap WorkSource.

Lopez said that although the company had originally been told that the clearance would take at least one year, and possibly as long as two, the company had not had even a status update since their initial application.

Even an acknowledgment from a higher authority that the process was moving along, he said, would be appreciated.

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