Categorized | Job Hunting

Defense Contractors Need Specialized Technical Pros

Posted on 01 May 2009

Buoyed by the success of U.S. military strategies and systems used during the Iraqi conflict, the Pentagon is even more intent on pursuing the next generation of weapon and homeland-security-defense systems. Many, such as those that allow remote and secure communications systems to collect, interpret and send relevant information to proper channels, require advanced communications and computer technologies.

But instead of developing the systems and technology in-house, the U.S. Department of Defense has largely turned to the commercial world, which has outpaced the government in computer-technology advances in the past four to six years. Bruce Jenkins, chief operating officer of Windsor Visions Inc., an Annapolis, Md., business-development firm for companies seeking DOD work, describes this change as “extraordinary.”

“People in the intelligence community used to be on the cutting edge of software and this has switched to the private sector,” Mr. Jenkins says. “Private companies have taken the lead with things like e-business tools, customer-relationship management and other programs. Companies like Sears and IBM have enormously sophisticated software packages out there to support them, and the intelligence agencies are salivating over them.”

The result is hundreds of lucrative contracts for U.S. defense contractors and subcontractors, which now need to hire thousands of highly skilled technical professionals to get the work done. The boost in orders is a welcome relief to an industry battered by cuts in commercial aerospace and to technical recruiters hurt by large-company mergers and the meltdown of telecommunications and Internet companies.

Prime Players

“For the past year, just about all our requirements are for candidates to work in the defense-intelligence sector,” says Don Wallach, president of Wallach Associates Inc., a search firm based in Rockville, Md. Like other recruiters interviewed for this article, Mr. Wallach says most of his clients want candidates with a high-level government-security clearance as well as advanced technical skills.

He notes that demand is typically for technical specialists to develop software and programs for weapons, communications and intelligence systems in the following areas:

  • Specialized communications, which might include radio-frequency (RF) communication systems, global positioning systems (GPS) and software-defined devices for armed forces members that function like computers instead of radios. “Net-centric” systems that maximize the Internet, e-mail and military communication networks also are being refined.
  • Command and control or what’s called C4I (computer, command, control, communication, and intelligence). These include communication security, information security and signals intelligence systems. Good examples include the systems that allowed the U.S. military to eavesdrop on the Iraqi regime’s communications and pinpoint its ground movements from the air, Mr. Wallach says. All these systems must be secure, which means developing software for intrusion detection.
  • Joint-fusion intelligence, which allows information from remote and disparate sensors and other sources to be collected, fused into a common format and sent to various commands.
  • Transformational programs, or top-secret systems that can change how warfare is conducted.

Demand is high for a wide range of functional specialists who can work in these areas. These include competitive intelligence, market intelligence and technology-transfer monitoring specialists; engineers in a wide range of subspecialties; intelligence analysts; linguists; and computer specialists of all types.

Among computer experts, demand is high for software and systems engineers, data-mining experts, programmer analysts, computer scientists, program and project managers and high-tech scientists.

“People with data-mining experience, knowledge-management [and] artificial intelligence backgrounds are really important,” says Mr. Jenkins. “One area where there’s a great lack is RF engineers. Anyone with a degree in computer science, engineering and physics is critical.”

Minimum Needs

Candidates need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and two to three years’ experience. Desirable candidates might have master’s degrees and Ph.D.s and more experience and various computer certifications. Almost all jobs filled by recruiters require secret or top-secret security clearances. Annual pay might range from $50,000 to $150,000 for advanced specialists. “I can send someone with a Java software background making $80,000 annually to several companies,” says Mr. Wallach.

He says he could easily fill 100 openings immediately if he could find candidates with the right technical and security-clearance requirements. Mr. Jenkins says one of his client companies would hire 20 professionals with clearances immediately if he could find them. Valerry Mannarino, senior account manager for Comsys Information Technology Services Inc., a Colorado Springs, Colo., recruiting firm, says she has about 50 openings to fill, mostly for systems engineers with five to 15 years’ experience and security clearances.

IntelligenceCareers.com, a Prince William, Va.-based Web site for those seeking careers in defense and intelligence firms, has job openings posted in “a good assortment of everything,” from foreign-language specialists to administrators, says CEO Bill Golden. “There are about 50 to 60 administrative jobs,” he says. “If you have a clearance, you can make a lot of money in that.”

Other jobs related to rebuilding Iraq also are available. For instance, one company is seeking 150 security-protection professionals to protect contractors who will be rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure, says Alex Baxter, managing partner for Transition Assistance Online (TAOnline.com). “They’re looking for infantry officers, junior military officers and others who had some type of security role in the Armed Forces,” he says, adding that high-level security clearances are requirements.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Defense Contractors says:

    Just wanted to add a small tip on creating a recession proof career. It would be a good idea to plan out your career or business by considering government contracting. This is a very lucrative financial opportunity that can help you stabilize financially and increase your income flow if it is done the right way.

    If this is something that you are interested in to put an end to your financial worries, get yourself registered with the Central Contractor Registry which is a federal clearing house for vendors and small businesses too. Also identify a product or service that you can supply to the government and which the government needs in order to get a contract.

    You can win such billion dollar contracts and secure your career or business better even during this phase of recession.

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