Government Must Step Up in Security Breach Crisis

November 29, 2021

Costly security breaches present a growing threat to UK national security. The Government’s defences against them consist of a mix of private-sector contractors and public-sector civil servants, all of whom are subject to rigorous security clearance.

However, the UK now faces a crisis. The number of people with adequate security clearance has plunged by 17% since 2013, causing fierce competition for talent between the private and public sectors--and the byzantine nature of the clearance process makes it difficult to recruit fresh talent. The government must simplify this process urgently to avoid leaving Britain open to disastrous cyberattacks.

Another issue is that organisations often struggle to move cleared employees from one contract to the next because agencies take so long to determine whether to accept a clearance that was approved by another agency. Larger organisations may have thousands of employees waiting for clearance at a time, causing revenue loss for companies and hampering national security missions for the government.

The speed of the clearance process is improving, but not fast enough to keep up with the exploding demand for cleared workers. Private sector companies have thousands of unfilled vacancies and not enough people to fill them.

To solve this issue expediently, government departments will have to work together to build on successes and make ongoing improvements to the clearance process. More importantly, we need to have the difficult conversations about what should and shouldn’t disqualify individuals from receiving security clearance--making sure we take into account changes in cultural, technological and legal norms. 

This process is critical to Britain’s national security