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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Have a Clearance? You Can Earn a Lot More Outside Government


If you have a security clearance, it pays to be in the private sector.

That is the takeaway from a new report from, a company that matches cleared individuals to companies searching for new employees.

Government employees with security clearances earn $86,218 on average, according to the survey of more than 20,000 individuals, while typical “independent consultants” make more than $114,000. Cleared contractors fall in between, averaging just shy of $100,000 annually.

Civilian federal employees with clearances do better than their military counterparts, who earn about $70,000 on average, according to the survey. Overall, average pay for individuals with security clearances dipped just 1 percent in 2013, which said was an impressive feat in a year that saw a government shutdown, furloughs, sequestration and budget cuts.

The “big five” intelligence agencies -- the National Reconnaissance Office, CIA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency -- all fell in the top six federal agencies in compensation for cleared employees. NRO topped the list, with security-cleared workers earning an average of $117,258. The State Department -- which paid cleared employees an average of $109,000 -- was fourth on the list.

This year should prove less volatile for employees with clearances, according to the report, given the partial roll-back of sequestration.

“In 2014, the job market for security-cleared professionals is more stable than last year thanks to a government budget that allows contracts to be awarded and funded,” wrote Evan Lesser,’s managing director. “That said, security-cleared professionals shouldn’t be looking for big gains in compensation -- flat is the new up.”

Retirement Processing Progress

Despite some recent bad press, the Office of Personnel Management said it has made significant strides in getting retired federal employees their benefits in a timely fashion.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta wrote a blog post earlier this week to highlight the agency’s progress in processing claims and to assert its commitment to doing even better. Archuleta said OPM’s “significant improvements” were demonstrated by its 71 percent reduction in the claims backlog since its peak in January 2012. That figure is based on the backlog as of Oct. 1, 2013, however, and the most recent numbers show a 33 percent spike of outstanding claims since that time.

“[OPM] is committed to the accurate and timely processing of retirement claims to federal retirees,” Archuleta wrote. “In recent months, we have taken steps to reduce the backlog in processing federal employee retirement requests, addressed the needs of the Retirement Services (RS) Information Technology system and improved customer service in RS.”

Archuleta’s column came after The Washington Post released a scathing report on the inefficiencies of OPM’s claims processing, focusing primarily on its “outdated,” paper-based system.

The OPM director conceded the agency remains partially paper based, but said it “has begun a gradual transition to a fully digital process.” OPM recently released a new “strategic information technology plan,” which will move the agency away from old-fashioned processing.

The average processing time for retirement claims is now 61 days, Archuleta said, compared to 91 days in July 2013 and 156 days in December 2011. Within seven days of their separation, retirees receive interim pay equaling about 80 percent of their final pay, while OPM is processing their claim.

Archuleta credited hard-working OPM employees for the progress, adding more work remains.

“I remain humbled by the hard work and dedication of OPM employees, and want to assure the federal workforce that I remain focused on providing RS the tools it needs, including to improve Retirement Services IT,” she wrote. “We will continue to make every effort to provide the excellent and timely service that our world class federal workforce deserves.”

(Image via Sergieiev/

Eric Katz writes about federal agency operations and management. His deep coverage of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Postal Service has earned him frequent guest spots on national radio and television news programs. Eric joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 and previously worked for The Financial Times. He is a graduate of The George Washington University.

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