Defense contracts are awarded to individuals or companies by the federal government. The contracts are an agreement to produce material or perform services related to national defense for the United States.

How Can You Become an Individual Defense Contractor?

To increase your chances of becoming an individual defense contractor, you should do the following.

Be a U.S. Citizen

Nearly all U.S. defense contractor positions require applicants to be national citizens. Anyone who is not a native citizen may go through the naturalization process to obtain citizenship.

Be Eligible for Security Clearance

You'll also have to acquire security clearance, but you can't actually obtain this clearance until you're in a government position. You can see if you're eligible for security clearance before you go through the application process. If you've had security clearance before, that's generally a good sign that you can get it again. Some factors that prevent a person from obtaining security clearance include the following: 

  • Current use of controlled or illegal substances 
  • Past criminal convictions resulting in one or more years of jail time 
  • Mental incompetence 
  • Serious, repeated financial troubles 
  • Being dishonorably discharged from the military 
  • Being unwilling to surrender a foreign passport 
  • Intentionally making false statements on the application 
  • Ongoing alcohol abuse 
  • A pattern of criminal or rule violation conduct

Talk to Other Defense Contractors

Current contractors can give you a lot of information, such as:

  • Insider tips on locating jobs 
  • Red flags on job listings 
  • Position-specific tips on formatting your resume and completing your application to increase your chances of being hired

Check Online Job Listings

The Department of Defense maintains job listings for civilian employment opportunities. You can check the Department of Defense website and search the Careers links, or use the USAJOBS site and search for jobs by using the keyword “defense.”

Completely Fill Out Your Application

Start by reading the application thoroughly; government jobs often have intensely detailed application processes. Be completely honest when filling it out as well. If you move forward in the hiring process, you'll be subject to a thorough background check, so supplying false information could lead to consequences.

Cooperate Fully With the Security Investigation Process

If you make it to the final stages or receive an offer, you'll go through a rigorous investigation process for security clearance. You must be completely honest and compliant. Provide all the information that's requested of you quickly, and make sure it's all accurate.

How to Become a Small Business Defense Contractor

The U.S. government doesn't only work with large corporations. The Department of Defense devotes a good part of its budget to contract with small businesses. Small businesses owned by veterans, women, and minorities are given added advantages during the selection process. It's important to do your research; working with the federal government means you'll have to follow a lot of complex rules and procedures.

Consider what your company can offer the government. Before looking into these types of contracts, think about specific services or products you can offer, as well as reasonable prices that still allow you to make a profit.

Be prepared to apply for security clearance for some, perhaps all, of your employees who'll be carrying out the contract. If you hired anyone without doing a background check first, you should notify them of your intentions to apply for government contracts so they'll be aware they may need to obtain security clearance to continue employment with your company.

Get ready to do a ton of paperwork as applying for a federal contract requires completing a lot of documents. Determine the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for the products or services you want to provide. This information is necessary when looking for contracts and completing applications. 

Register as a government contractor, and check the Fed Biz Opps site frequently for open contracts. When you submit proposals to agencies looking for contractors, follow all directions in the call for bids and clearly explain how your business can provide exactly what the agency is looking for.

As helpful as databases can be, it's just as important to network and make contacts in the industry. This is one of the best ways to get inside information on existing and upcoming opportunities when you're trying to land a position as a defense contractor.

If you need help with defense contracts, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.