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Defence industry in ‘holding pattern’ on security clearance backlog

(L-R) Aaron Piccinin from CIOG works with Leading Aircraftman Kevin McDonald, an Aircraft Structural Technician (ASTTECH) with No. 3 Squadron on the wirelessly connected Portable Maintenance Aid laptop during routine maintenance of an F-35A Lightning II at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo: SGT Guy Young

Questions have been raised about the speed and progress of mandatory security clearances being approved for sensitive defence contracts in Australia.

Questions have been raised about the speed and progress of mandatory security clearances being approved for sensitive defence contracts in Australia.

Defence Connect has spoken with multiple defence industry contractors and support organisations voicing frustration at outstanding delays in their employee security clearances. The delays have far-reaching consequences, effectively halting preparations for defence technology contracts in the lead-up to significant changes outlined in the Defence Strategic Review earlier this year.

The security clearance process is designed to deem individuals as trustworthy to have granted access to sensitive national security information. It involves extensive reviews of criminal record, employment history, financial status, and other evaluations.


Security clearances are managed by the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA) for the Department of Defence and run through the “myClearance” vetting system, launched by contractor Accenture in November last year.

“Measures are being implemented to resolve issues in myClearance that are affecting user access and the processing of clearances,” according to the AGSVA.

An advisory report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2023 was raised in June this year indicating plans to move high-level applications to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) following backlog of applications stated earlier this year.

The report detailed additional powers to enable ASIO to become centrally responsible for the issuing, maintaining, and revoking of Australia’s highest level of security clearance and the implementation of a consistent approach across the Australian government.

A defence industry insider, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Defence Connect that the industry has widely accepted the wait times and hoped they wouldn’t impact contracts.

“I know mine probably took several months and I’ve got other people on my team that it’s probably taken about nine months. That’s roughly the amount of time it’s taken,” they said.

“Thankfully, it hasn’t affected our projects on that occasion (while we were waiting). But it definitely had the potential to (become a problem) if the project had been scaled up.

“I know that other people are obviously seeing crazy wait times, especially with the skills shortage, there’s obviously a lot more people coming into the defence environment that haven’t got their security clearance yet.

“They are basically in a holding pattern until that comes through before they can be introduced into programs.

“In general, people are just saying the processing time is what it is, and there is just a backlog of people going through the system.”

Security clearance delays aren’t a new problem. An independent intelligence review conducted for the Australian government in 2017 reported concerns regarding the length of time taken to complete top secret positive vetting security clearances.

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