Tag Archives: Washington DC

Clearing a Hurdle

Clearing the Main Hurdle

Picture of Track Hurdle

Not these Hurdles

Many of you who are entering the U.S. government, particularly in the foreign policy and security policy fields, will have to go through the security clearance process. This process, while intimidating, should rarely be a cause for concern and there are a number of steps you can take to make the process as easy as possible. Please note that this is general information. If your hiring authority provides different information, consider that to supercede the information below.

What is Security Clearance?

Holding a U.S. government security clearance allows an employee to access classified information. Clearances are issued at three levels, confidential, secret, and top secret. At each level, clearance holders have access to different types of information on the basis of their job duties. Different agencies have levels within Top Secret (including TS/SCI – allowing access to Sensitive Compartmentalized Information or SAP – Special Access Program Information). They may also call it something different than Top Secret clearance, such as the Department of Energy’s “Q” clearance.

What is the Goal of the Process?

The primary purpose of the clearance is to determine whether a job candidate is determined to be able to maintain classified information. The government is looking for trustworthy applicants with high levels of reliability, loyalty, and character.

What does the Process Look Like?

Once a federal agency extends a conditional employment offer, the agency human resources contact will provide information about the necessary paperwork for clearance positions. This is usually centered around Standard Form (SF) 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. This information on the form is for the last 10 years (although some forms will list the last ten years or until 18, whichever is closer), detailing residences, jobs, contacts, legal issues, education and much more.

In addition the SF-86, agencies may require fingerprints, personal interviews, credit examinations, polygraph test, or other additional materials at the request of the agency. This can often be a lot of material.

How Long Does It Take?

It is challenging to predict how long each clearance case will take, as each individual investigation is unique. However, when the hiring Department issues the clearance paperwork and a prospective employee completes the paperwork correctly and promptly, the time allocated is usually sufficient.

Are Clearances Transferable?

Possibly. According to the State Department, clearances are normally accepted by other agencies if the investigation was completed in the last 10 years (5 years for Top Secret Clearance) and there has been no more than a two year break in service.

 

Do I need to take a polygraph test?

For a secret level clearance, generally no polygraph test is needed. However, this may be necessary, based on the needs and policies of the hiring authority.

Who’s Where in Public Diplomacy

In the past few days, we’ve helped to define the concept of Public Diplomacy (PD) as the foundation concept of our dual-degree with the Newhouse School.  We have also told the stories of Adam Cyr and Jennifer Osias, who has recently completed exceptional internships in traditional public diplomacy-linked organizations. However, here at Maxwell we do have an expansive definition of PD, which includes public advocacy, organizational communications, and government relations work.

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Acronym Salad: Part II – The IC

Seal of the US Intelligence Community.

Seal of the US Intelligence Community. Source: DNI.gov

The section of the U.S. government that is literally and metaphorically shrouded in secrecy is the intelligence community.

While all of the constituent agencies have public presences, they each have different functions and specializations.

Thus, if you area  student seeking to serve in an analytic or management roles within these agencies as professionals, it is useful to understand which agency is the best conceptual fit.  It is also useful to attempt an internship within one of these agencies, as it would secure valuable career preparation for work in the IC. For information about those opportunities, visit the individual websites of each of the IC members.

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Acronym Salad: Part I – USAID

USAID Small Logo

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the U.S. Government’s primary agency for international development and humanitarian assistance.  Given the breadth of its programming, the agency and its workers will often use short-hand notation to describe the offices in which they work and the programs that are carried out within.

In this edition of acronym salad, we will discuss two primary acronyms of use to potential development workers, IQC (Indefinite Quantity Contracts) and PVO (Private Voluntary Organizations)

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International Affairs within the US Government

While the search for international affairs jobs in the U.S. government often starts with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense, it doesn’t necessarily have to end there.  In 2013, the Robertson Foundation for Government, GovLoop, and the Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA), published “Making an Impact_Guide to International Jobs in Government,” which provides details on the 50 federal agencies and offices that have international components.  If you are interested in working in the international arena for the US government, it behooves you to take a look.

Diplomacy and Development Organization

As parts of the United States government, the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have complicated organizational systems. Given the interlocking tasks and multiple hierarchical layers, it is important for those interested in working in the system to have a working knowledge of these organization structures as they consider their potential career path. Thus, we’ve prepared a quick guide to all of the major offices in both organizations for your use. Continue reading