A primer for would-be BRAC job-seekers

Maryland's Mike Hayes on security clearances, timing and whether you need a college degree

  • Mike Hayes, retired Marine brigadier general and program director of the state Department of Business and Economic Development's Office of Military & Federal Affairs.
Mike Hayes, retired Marine brigadier general and program director… (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara…)
July 09, 2010|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

Nothing is so heartening to job-seekers nowadays as word that thousands of openings are headed their way.

That's the siren call of BRAC — the military base realignment and closure effort that's relocating jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and other installations in Maryland. About 12,000 jobs are moving to the two Baltimore-area bases between August and next summer, along with thousands more off-base contractor jobs. And they are coming as unemployment is still near generational highs.

But landing a BRAC job looks daunting. There's a maze of federal agencies and military contractors to navigate. And no one knows for sure how many workers will transfer with their positions to Maryland during the next year, and how many will quit or retire — creating opportunities for Marylanders.

Mike Hayes has made it his job to stay on top of the ever-changing BRAC news. A retired Marine brigadier general, he's program director of the state Department of Business and Economic Development's Office of Military & Federal Affairs. He talked with The Baltimore Sun recently about BRAC jobs, educational requirements and the all-important security clearance.

Question: What types of jobs are being moved here from Northern Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere?

Answer: There are jobs that cover all disciplines — contracting, legal, administration, public affairs, logistics, procurement, a whole host of support jobs. There are very few disciplines that are not represented somewhere. But the dominant theme … is information technology and communications.

Q: So while BRAC offers more opportunities to high-tech workers, hiring won't start and end with them?

A: What these larger organizations will say to you at job fairs and so forth is, do not be despondent about your major. There may be a place for you that isn't so obvious.

Q: Do you need job experience to land a BRAC position?

A: Nearly every one of these fields has some entry-level [jobs].

Q: Do all these jobs require a bachelor's or advanced degree?

A: A significant percentage, but not all by any means. There are a significant number of jobs in all these organizations that [require no more than] associate degrees and high school, that are more skill sets than educational requirements.

The Defense Information Systems Agency [DISA, which is moving from Arlington, Va., to Fort Meade] will tell you, … "We will help you attain the next level of your education at our expense. If you come in with an associate degree and you show promise, and your promotion requires a bachelor's degree, we will help you get that bachelor's degree."

Q: What about security clearances — a must-have for BRAC jobs?

A: In the case of Meade and Aberdeen, I can't give you a percentage, but I can confidently say the vast majority either require that you have one when you enter or be in a position to pursue one.

Q: Being eligible to get a clearance, you mean? What makes someone ineligible?

A: The most common reason for not getting a clearance is a lack of control over your personal finances. And then various arrests — arrests and convictions, obviously, make it very, very difficult.

Q: If you've been unemployed for a while, your finances are probably in poor shape. Does that harm your chances of getting a security clearance?

A: It's not a matter of your finances not being in great shape. It's a matter of having done something that indicates you have knowingly mismanaged [them] — you've allowed a series of credit cards to run past their limit. It's basically managing your credit.

Q: Can individuals try to land clearances on their own?

A: For college students, the very best thing you can do is pursue a private-sector or public-sector internship. … It will enable either the agency, if you're working on the federal side, or the corporation, if you're working on the private side, to initiate the security clearance for you.

Q: Most of the BRAC jobs haven't moved yet. How has that affected residents' efforts to land one?

A: There has been a degree of discouragement. … But here's the dynamic: The defense organizations will tell their employees that there will come a time when you must declare that you will keep your job as it moves, or no. If you say yes, you qualify for any number of entitlements. But because you qualify for entitlements, almost everybody initially says yes, and then at the 11th hour, they have an opportunity to say, "I'm no longer interested." …

Individual Marylanders' opportunity begins in earnest this August and will play out over the next 12 months. Beginning in August, significant movement of jobs from Fort Monmouth [to Aberdeen] begins.

Q: Employers won't need to hire for the jobs that current workers decide to keep. How many people does the government think will transfer?

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