A Career in Industrial Security – Getting Started in a Defense Contractor Organization

January 11th, 2021 by admin No comments »

I receive a lot of emails from people who wonder how to get into the security field. Many are looking for a career change and are curious about what kind of education and experience is needed to work as a security specialist in the defense and contractor industry. Others are just starting out in life and looking for a job with challenges and opportunities the security field offers. There are plenty of great opportunities in with large and small contractor companies providing the venue. Here is what I have discovered about our industry and some of you may have other experiences and advice you can pass to those who ask about a career in security.

Industrial security is an outstanding field for someone with all ranges of experience to enter into. Some have been hired at an entry level job and have received promotions and additional responsibilities. Others have transferred full time to security after enjoying serving in an additional duty capacity. Career growth occurs as the contract and company expands or the employee takes on more responsibilities after hiring on with another company. Security managers can also move to higher level security positions as chief security officer or corporate security officer as experience meets opportunity.

Employees just entering the work force can benefit from entry level jobs. These opportunities are great for building skills and filling a critical need while filing receipts, wrapping packages, checking access rosters, applying information system security, or bringing classified information into an accountability system. Those skills combined with learning to implement programs designed to safeguard classified information provides a great foundations to build careers on. Additionally, many employees attend university and other adult education opportunities while serving full time in the security field. The experience, education, certification and security clearance gained while on the job prove very valuable.

Taking a look at want ads and job announcement, one can see that education and certification is beginning to be more of a requirement. Past listings for entry level and some FSO jobs required only the ability to get a security clearance and having a high school diploma or a GED. However, more and more job announcements require formal education to include college and a preference for security certification. The defense security industry still provides a good career field to gain entry level experience and move up quickly. Being well entrenched in a good career provides the perfect environment and opportunity for simultaneous education and certification. This will make the prepared ready for future positions and raises.

For those starting their careers in smaller enterprises have a keen opportunity to perform in various security disciplines. Some actually assume appointed FSO responsibilities as an extra duty and learn as they go. Many of the defense contractor organizations are small and may only have one person in the security role. The sole security manager may only work in one discipline such as personnel security. Others have a larger scope, working with a guard force, information security, and compliance issues such as exports.

Large Defense Contractors and Government agencies also provide entry level security jobs. The job title is often security specialist and job descriptions allow for many experiences. Some descriptions use words to the affect as the following: “The candidate must be eligible for a security clearance. Job responsibilities include receiving, cataloging, storing, and mailing classified information. Maintain access control to closed areas. Provide security support for classified information processing and destruction. Initiate security clearance requests and process requests for government and contract employees conducting classified visits. Implement security measures as outlined in NISPOM.” Administrative, military, guard, and other past job experience may provide transferrable skills to allow a person to apply for the job. Once hired, the new employee learns the technical skills, they can quickly advance applying their other experiences and education.

Our industry is still a great place to learn and grow. Career advancement and promotions are continually available for the prepared. Opportunities continue to exist in companies large enough to provide increasing challenges and rewards. Some may have to apply for jobs with other enterprises to reach their potential. Others may be satisfied performing their valuable functions in an organization where their skills are valued and rewarded. Consider using ISP Certification-The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual for your job interview preparation. Whether applying as an FSO, security specialist, ISSM, or other discipline, our review questions can help you prepare. Regardless of your professional goals, what are you doing to remaining competitive.

How Defense Contractors Get a Facility Security Clearance

December 15th, 2020 by admin No comments »

Having a Facility Clearance (FCL) makes a business attractive, but that desire does not provide the needed justification for obtaining a security clearance. The FCL is strictly contract based and demonstrates an enterprise’s trustworthiness. A company is eligible for a facility security clearance after the award of a classified contract. The FCL is a result of a lengthy investigation and the subsequent government’s determination that a company is eligible to have access to classified information.

A company can bid on a classified contract without possessing a facility clearance, but is sponsored for a clearance after the contract is awarded. The interested company cannot simply request its own FCL, but must be sponsored by the Government Contracting Activity (GCA) or a prime contractor. Once the need to conduct classified work is determined, the next requirements are administrative. The company has to submit proof that they are structured and a legal entity under the laws of the United States, the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico and have a physical location in the United States or her territories. The enterprise has to be in good business standing and neither the company nor key managers can be barred from participating in U.S. Government contracts.

The company being sponsored for a clearance should immediately obtain the federal regulations necessary to determine the government’s guidance for working with classified material. For Department of Defense contractors, the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) is the most frequently used. The sooner the contractor obtains their copy of the regulations, the quicker they will begin to understand their expected role in protecting the nation’s secrets.

A critical piece of the sponsorship program revolves around the Cognizant Security Agency (CSA) having a good understanding of the subject company and their mission. To do this, the CSA will need to review organizational structure and governance documentation to determine who can commit the company and make decisions. This information includes: articles of incorporation, stock records, corporate by-laws and minutes.

The senior company officer, FSO and other key management employees will be processed for a security clearance. The CSA may also want to see proof of citizenship and other information to determine eligibility for a clearance. The other officers and board members may be excluded from the security clearance process if they will not have influence over cleared contractor decisions.

Aside from corporate entity documentation, the CSA will collect and complete additional forms sometime during the FCL process. These forms include, but are not limited to the Department of Defense Security Agreement (DD Form 441), and the Certificate Pertaining to Foreign Interests (SF328). The CSA will advise the contractor on how to fill out the forms and answer any questions the contractor may have.

The DD Form 441 lists the responsibilities of both the cleared contractor and the government. The contractor agrees to implement and enforce the security controls necessary to prevent unauthorized disclosure of classified material in accordance with the NISPOM. The contractor also agrees to verify that the subcontractor, customer, individual and any other person has the proper need to know and possesses the security clearance necessary to access classified information. The Government will also instruct the contractor on the proper handling, storage and disposition of classified material usually in the form of the DD Form 254. The Government also agrees to provide security clearances to eligible contractor employees.

The SF 328 is used by the contractor and the CSA to determine whether or not and to what extent the cleared contractor falls under Foreign Ownership Control and Influence (FOCI). The primary concern is always protecting classified information from unauthorized disclosure. In today’s changing world it is not unusual for a cleared company to be involved with international business. If classified contracts are under the control of a foreign entity, the classified information could be in jeopardy of unauthorized disclosure. Additionally, items that fall under the International Traffic and Arms Regulation ( ITAR ) could be in jeopardy of unauthorized export. If a contractor falls under FOCI, the CSA will evaluate their ability to mitigate the extent of foreign influence concerning classified information and approve, deny or revoke the FCL. Companies that are determined to fall under FOCI can still compete for classified work; however, there are measures to be taken to ensure that only U.S. persons control the scope of classified work.

Foreign Defense Contractors and Fiber Optic Line Controlled UGVs

December 8th, 2020 by admin No comments »

Unmanned Ground Vehicles are full of sensors to help them navigate, some are controlled tele-robotically. Some employ combination strategies. For instance one company wants to lay down a stake which will be the antenna to tele-robotically control the unmanned ground vehicle and then allow it to roll-out a fiber optic line as it goes.

This will separate the electronic signature from the actual location of the vehicle and perhaps by as much as a mile? Additionally, as defense contractors work to perfect these tele-robotic systems and the fiber optic line separation to prevent electronic signatures, UAVs are being developed with optical flow sensors to locate straight line anomalies which can see the line strewn out.

A small low level UAV might seek and destroy or fly over to the robotic mobile missile launcher and drop off a hand grenade or become a single mission UAVs with an aboard destruct on impact device.

Since multiple sensors such a lidar, radar, infrared, optical and sonar will be used by both the invading strike team and the defending army, even if the electronic signature is removed, the heat signature and satellite anomaly are still active.

You can fool some of the sensors some of the time, but you cannot fool all the sensors all of the time.

Although I have not heard any discussion on this topic it might make sense for the defending army to string multiple fiber optic lines from multiple directions and coat the fiber optic lines with the local color for camouflage, then use frequency hopping or skipping with the tele-robotic communication system. If one antenna is hit, it will simply stop being used. With multiple targets all around the area will appear to be a hot bed of activity and attract the invading forces closer – “Trap Door Spider” technique.

If this were done then the system might be viable to for a nation like Iran to add to the “old junk” used Russian Missile Launchers that it recently bought which has with the active matrix RFID satellite tags hidden inside so they can be tracked and identified by US Satellites. Indeed with spy satellites which find anomalies in Earth’s surface height of over 2 feet, even a new retaining wall shows up on the images and the artificially intelligent computers finds these within hours.

Hiding in Plain Sight – OPSEC For Defense Contractors

November 23rd, 2020 by admin No comments »

While on vacation this summer I had the opportunity to bump into a famous actress. Actually, I didn’t even notice her until my wife pointed her out. But, there she was walking right past us in Dollywood, USA. At first, I did not recognize her because I really was not looking for her. Also, she had not been dressed in the fashion of her TV career. A moment later I asked my wife to continue with the children while I back tracked to get a better look.

I turned back and finally caught up with the actress and her group. Since I only wanted to verify my sighting and not bother her, I continued to walk past her, took a right and pretended to be lost. I looked around as if searching for something. After taking a discreet look I was able to finally recognize her as the TV personality. I then made my way back to my family smiling and nodding to the actress as I walked by.

“I’m not sure, but I think that was her,” I later told my wife. “Good sighting”.

Later that night, after returning to our vacation cabin my wife came running up to me.

“See, I knew that was her.” My wife held open a gossip magazine with the actress and her famous boyfriend in a photo walking along a resort beach.

In the picture, the actress had worn the same pink trucker hat and brown sunglasses we had seen her in earlier that day. I couldn’t believe it, it had been a good sighting.

“So, why didn’t you talk to her?” asked my wife.

“Well, I really didn’t know what I would say. Plus, I really think she just wanted to enjoy her holiday,” I replied.

I’ve been thinking of the event on and off since returning from our vacation. This actress had made an attempt at assuming a normal life on a normal vacation taken by normal people. However, instead of really blending in she stood out enough to be recognized by my wife (who has also been able to spot other celebrities at airports during our travels).

Our actress had attempted to blend in dressing in clothing to be somewhat incognito. However, the hat and sunglasses really made her stand out. Here in the south, many like to wear baseball caps. That day, few people wore hats. Those who did wore regular baseball caps and not the mesh type of trucker hats; especially not hot pink ones. The sunglasses were oversized and clashed with the hat (and outfit) and kind of made the appearance of someone doing everything wrong in an attempt to look like everyone else.

Identification and the Defense Contractor’s Rolodex

November 5th, 2020 by admin No comments »

Identification is a critical part of our business. Those who possess classified information cannot just disclose it to anyone who asks; verification is necessary to ensure that those who are authorized to receive such information are who they say they are. Sometimes identification is made visually through recognition of a friend, colleague or co-worker. More often than not the visual recognition is backed up with technology. Many contractor and government organizations and agencies have internal identification systems using software and hardware designed to recognize biological and electronic information. There are many configurations of card reading technology. Some use picture badges unique to organizations coupled with small chips providing a code for entry into access controlled areas.

At any given time you can identify such employees by the card dangling at the end of a lanyard. Perhaps even some are laden with multiple cards pushing the lanyard’s published tensile strength to the limit. A card is used to enter the employer’s facility and the remaining cards are for entry to contract related organizations; each agency issuing its own recognition requirements.

A few months back I was flying away on business. I like to arrive early enough to get through security and usually have a form of government issued identification and my boarding pass ready to go. When I get to the TSA checkpoint, I display the required credentials and am given access. I recently saw a fellow traveler approach the TSA checkpoint just as I was about to do. However, instead of passing smoothly through the process, he became show stopper. The flow had been interrupted considerably.

The traveler made it to the checkpoint, but he was not prepared to present his access credentials. Well, he presented information, but it was the wrong kind. When he approached the TSA official, he began to work through what I call “the contractor rolodex”. He had worn his lanyard with about 10 access cards around his neck through the entire security line and began showing each card one by one. The patient TSA officer rejected each card until the traveler successfully produced the government issued one. This could have been a driver’s license or a common access card for all I know, but it was the right one.

Aside from the comic relief the incident provided, there is somewhat of a traveler and employee security issue to deal with. Employees are trained to put away our organization’s access card when not in the facility, though some apparently do not quite understand the “secrecy”. At the very least risk, the access card may identify the wearer as a government official or a defense contractor employee, depending on where they live. It also may provide the employee’s specific place of work and in some instances their clearance level. Worst case scenario, the card could be stolen and allow unauthorized access to a facility. Perhaps, a subject can be targeted for exploitation based on identification of line of work and employer.

Identification is a major part of doing business. Access and need to know can be verified with proper recognition provided by information printed or embedded in access card technology. Security professionals should provide education and training that help employees understand the importance of protecting their identification and how they are associated with sensitive information or business.

Defense Contractors and Police Tech

October 22nd, 2020 by admin No comments »

There have been many reports that various regimes around the world, some allies, some quasi-allies, some enemies, and others on the brink of such labels – using US technology to spy on their citizens, censor them, and even imprison them. This is obviously not good, and although this technology can be used for good policing, it will be abused by those who lust for power, and wish to continue to dominate over the masses.

In the US we “seem” to have a pretty strong sense of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to our internal policing. That’s a good thing, but still it’s a fine line. Luckily, in the US we’ve bred and educated our masses on the need for freedom and liberty, and since we draw on this same population to run the affairs of the state, police force, military, and technology corporations, we can expect these things to stay in check as long as we don’t take this police tech for granted or allow too much trust in those who have and use these technologies.

Well, yes, in the US we have healthy skepticism, as well as the freedom and free speech to ask these questions, but in other societies it is not this way. Right now we see, our defense contractors selling military type tech to policing agencies, not just here, but these technologies are sold elsewhere around the world, and copied by others and used or sold everywhere else. Still, good police tech saves taxpayer’s money. Okay so let’s talk.

Now then, I’d like to point to two more recent articles on this topic, the first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on November 25, 2011 titled “From Battlefield Into Deputies’ Vehicles – Raytheon Electronic Systems Tested in Iraq will Enable Faster Response Times to Calls and Provide Instant Data on Suspects,” by WJ Hennigan. The second appeared in the Wall Street Journal on November 28, 2011 by David Kesmodel titled; “Pentagon Cutbacks Force New Strategy at Rockwell Collins” – and both articles seem to be confirming a trend which has been discussed amongst defense contractor industry analysts.

You see, with big budget cuts in US Military defense, these defense contractors need to look for secondary markets for their products and bundled services. They have no choice if they wish to keep their sales up, and their shareholder’s equity and quarterly profits. Although, these other market segments aren’t quite as lucrative, they will pay the bills, keep folks employed, and allow these companies to fight another day, and surely they will, as humans do not seem to be contemplating giving up crime, civil unrest, disruption, or war anytime soon – maybe by the year 2350 – if we are lucky?

What I am saying is this; let’s keep a sense of healthy skepticism when it comes to these police technologies, let’s make sure we are careful what we export, and let’s also use these same technologies against those who might abuse our freedoms. We’ll be okay as long as we pay attention, and do not become complacent or naïve at a time when this technology is so rapidly increasing. Please consider all this and think on it.

Customer Service for Defense Contractors

October 15th, 2020 by admin No comments »

What sort of customer service is required when working on very important defense contractor projects? Well believe it or not customer service can make or break your company and many Military Career Men and Women are pretty hardass these days and so you better give them satisfaction and customer service or you will be sorry. The defense contractors and the military must work as a seamless team.

The Military needs the efficiencies of the free market and really that is how we won World War II anyway we simply out produced the bad guys. How? By allowing our teams and free markets to work towards the common cause to win the war of course and it obviously worked too.

Customer service for defense contractors is a key consideration also in getting no-bid contracts which are often awarded on-the-fly for something very important, which does not have time to go through the bidding process of 90 days to send out these solicitations.

Project managers would be well advised to work closely with their counterparts on the military side and stay in constant contact with their needs. This is the minimum they should do to enhance customer service. If the United States military is to receive the benefit of the efficiencies of free markets then the free market military and industrial complex corporate defense contractors need to keep communication free-flowing. And isn’t that what customer service is all about? Please consider this in 2006.

How Defense Contractors Request A Security Clearance

September 25th, 2020 by admin No comments »

How Personnel Security Clearances are Granted

The Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) processes security clearances for organizations falling under the NISP. According to Executive Order 12968-Access to Classified Information, employees should not be granted access to classified information unless they possess a security clearance, have a need to know the classified information involved, received an initial security briefing and have signed a nondisclosure agreement.

The Facility Security Officer (FSO) is a position that the defense contractor must appoint during the FCL approval process. The FSO implements a security program to protect classified in information. They also request investigations for employees who require a security clearance. What this means is, all cleared contractors must appoint an FSO. It could be the business owner in a small organization or an employee with an additional duty. The primary qualifications of an FSO are to be a US Citizen and have a PCL at the same level as the FCL. It is possible for an FSO to be the sole employee in the company.

The contractor and DSS have joint responsibilities with the PCL process as they do with the FCL process. When the FCL is being granted, key employees should complete a Questionnaire for National Security Positions, also known as Standard Form (SF 86). Part of the process includes ensuring that the applicants are US Citizens. They should submit the application to the FSO who then submits applications to DISCO. An investigation is conducted and the central adjudication facility (CAF) makes a security clearance determination. The determination is then entered into the Joint Personnel Adjudication (JPAS), the Department of Defense provided system where security clearance information is stored. Other government organizations may have different systems. Once entered into JPAS, the FSO can grant access based on need to know and the clearance level.

The SF 86 is the main area the applicant can affect the speed of the security clearance process. A properly filled out application form is the key. Incomplete or inaccurate information is the number one cause of clearance delays. Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of birth for relatives should be gathered as background research. Fortunately the SF 86 form is online and requires only filling out once. When a clearance is up for renewal, the applicant can log in their SF 86 and make updates.

DSS and FSOs use JPAS to update personnel information. This system allows instantaneous updates of records as well as notification of access, denial or revocation of clearances. At the time of this writing, there are more than 89,000 users of JPAS and 23,000 are from defense contractors.

Not everyone investigated is guaranteed a security clearance. In some instances a clearance can be denied, revoked or suspended. The employee’s background is investigated thoroughly for the initial clearance and again every five to fifteen years while maintaining a clearance and depending on the required security clearance level. In the event that a security clearance is denied, suspended or revoked, DSS will also notify the FSO. The FSO will then deny access to classified material to that employee and update JPAS.

The personnel security clearance investigation

Prior to granting a security clearance, DSS will ensure the proper security clearance background investigation is conducted. Two primary types of investigation included the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) and the National Agency Check with Local Agency Check and Credit Check (NACLC).

The SSBI is the most detailed investigation and is used to process TOP SECRET (TS), and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearances. The FSO initiates the security clearance request with DSS through JPAS. The FSO notifies the employee to begin the application by filling completing Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) Standard Form 86 (SF 86) to verify employment. The federal investigator verifies the information by interviewing references, employers or others who have known the subject socially or professionally. The investigator may use names identified on the SF 86 and as discovered during the course of the investigation. To facilitate an efficient investigation, applicants should complete the SF 86 accurately and completely.

The SSBI will also cover periods of employment and education institutions attended. The applicant should be accurate about the attendance and degrees, certificates or diplomas credited and list contacts or references as completely as possible. Other areas subject to investigation include places of residence, criminal records and involvement with law enforcement and financial records. The investigators may contact those with social and professional knowledge of the applicant, and divorced spouses.

The NACLC is required for SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL levels of security clearances. Investigations are conducted to determine suitability for a clearance, fingerprint classification and a background check using a search of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) database. Investigators also conduct a credit check based on residence, employment and education locations. The investigation will also cover law enforcement issues at all locations listed on the SF 86. Once assigned a case, investigators will use the submitted request to research factors about the employee’s life to help determine suitability. The suitability is assessed by a trained adjudicator based on an approved background investigation.

The granted security clearance is honored across agencies and no additional investigations should be conducted to access classified information at the same level or lower of the PCL. If an employee has a security clearance granted by any agency with an investigation meeting the same or higher requirements, access to classified information can usually be granted without further investigation.

Ways Defense Contractors Try To Cheat The Government

August 11th, 2020 by admin No comments »

The False Claims Act allows litigation when two parties do not deal with one another in good faith. Currently, the most common occurrence of this is in the government and defense contractor relationship. When it comes to military weaponry and warfare, there are very specific stipulations and ways of billing that must be followed or else fraud has been committed. Defense contractor companies, one would think, may find fraud too intimidating when the government is involved, but the reality is that it happens quite often. Just how are many of these firms attempting to defraud the government? Well, for starters, they:

Cross Charge Government Sources

The cross charge is born from two very specific payment methods that the government uses to fill these contractors demands. On the one hand, there is a fixed fee paid for the overall project. No matter how long the project takes, that one fee stands unchanged. There is also a cost plus form of payment that the defense contractor will collect. Cost plus incorporates the actual cost of production of the final product. Some companies will take the hours worked on the fixed price portion and attribute those hours to the finished price of the cost plus contract, thus inflating their numbers and getting a larger profit at the expense of the government. This is not considered a good faith agreement.

Substitute Products

Some defense contractors will enter into jobs where the specific parts to be used are not spelled out, and they will obtain parts from an unauthorized source. As a result, they end up making a lesser quality product at the original price that was quoted while going behind the government’s back.

Account Costs Creatively

When a defense contractor knowingly and willfully charges the government parts of a private contract, they can profit from the government while lowering their prices to meet the demands of private contracts over their competitors. This results in an unfair advantage that makes the defense contractor very difficult to compete with.

Cutting Corners and Inflating Prices

All government jobs come with a deadline that must be met in order to properly complete the transaction. Sometimes the defense contractor will knowingly cut corners or inflate prices associated with the project to get the government to extend deadlines, pay more for a product, and generally defraud.

When it comes to lethal weaponry, there is understandably a large degree of red tape to cut through. After all, a poorly constructed product can cost many lives and result in unnecessary damages. Good faith is of the utmost importance when dealing with these projects on both sides, so it is important to get things right the first time and deal with each other fairly and in good faith.


My First Year As A Defense Contractor

March 13th, 2020 by admin No comments »

My first year as a defense contractor taught me about patience. As the Global War on Terrorism starts to wind down, my company as well as other were finding ourselves in situations where government auditors were discovering acquisition missteps in award processes. Millions of taxpayers dollars were being held up along with hundreds of contractor jobs, some of them for veterans. Most of the time the delay was due to a paperwork error or paperwork needed by the contracting officer which there delays the product or service getting to the war fighter immediately. But with this being an election year and the President’s emphasis on Cyber Security, information technology awards are receiving careful scrutiny within the acquisition community of the Department of Defense. The acquisition process is under so much scrutiny lately that any Service does not want attention for an infraction for awarding a multi-million dollar contract over several years for a major program that is probably under discussion in Congress. Plus the Department of Defense has been on a war footing for over 11 years so pulling back and releasing military, civilians, and even contractors tied to weapons systems that are no longer needed or cut from the budget becomes part of this overall process. So as you prepare or even start the process of shutting down operations, close units, mothball facilities, relocate units back to the United States the operations tempo to support missions either in defensive or offensive character will remain static until that mission is no longer required or relocated. Stress therefore starts taking its toll on all those supporting that mission that there are less tools, people, money, facilities, and overall support to continue to keep that operation at the sustained level of performance in previous budgetary cycles. There is only one quick answer to this problem.

It has always been said in the Department of Defense that people are your most valuable resource so when your most valuable resource is in decline you buy it. Here is where veterans with all their experience can and do help fill the gap as defense contractors and save the day for the Department of Defense. Veterans are hired by defense contractors for two reasons and only two reasons. First, for their connections within the Department of Defense that could help with potential leads for future proposals and second, their expertise in the military or skill they performed. This will be invaluable when writing proposals when the time comes for the company to go after that contract work up for bid. The delay comes when a contracting officer receives proposals from vendors and all the contingency offers have been made to veterans newly retired from the military or even defense contractors who have lost the contract and have accepted a contingency offer from a potentially new vendor, the process could take 60 days or longer. Then it could take a couple of weeks to get everyone on board if it’s a larger contract like processing everyone into the system before they work let alone seeing their first paycheck. My first year has been educational and inspiring as a defense contractor. But it also has been a road of bumps too and sometimes I had to question if this is what I really wanted to do. Seeing this process from both sides, I understand why a defense contractor would have so much patience.