This means an 8(a) firm won’t be able to apply for a clearance on its own.
In order to obtain a Security Clearance, an individual must first obtain sponsorship from a cleared US contactor or a federal agency.
The government or its contractors are the only groups that can start the clearance process; the government pays for this process, not the contractor or the employee. The person is asked to fill out the National Security Questionnaire, which when submitted kicks off the security clearance process.
Two separate procedures follow: the background investigation and the adjudication process.
To be sponsored you must be employed by a cleared contractor (or hired as a consultant) in a position that requires a cleara nce.