2019 was another big year of security clearance news and headlines. We’d call it ‘the year of the breach‘ – but that seems to be every year of the past decade. Security clearance policy was still prevalent, as the government scaled up its implementation of Trusted Workforce 2.0, reduced periodic reinvestigations in favor of continuous evaluation, and the Department of Defense took over the investigation from the Office of Personnel Management.
What news stories captured your attention most this year? Here are the headlines with the most ClearanceJobs readers in 2019.
Who boy, do people love to talk about the Army Combat Fitness Test, and by extension, the changes to Army policies concerning women in combat. In addition to the people who read about the test on our site, we sifted through more than 700 comments. The new test creates universal standards for men and women, and creates different performance standards for each MOS. There is huge debate over whether this is a good move for the military. This editor doesn’t have a position – but I did have fun taking the test and trying it out for myself (spoiler: I failed – BUT I plan to retake it in the spring with some training under my belt!)
Approximately 75% of the candidates on ClearanceJobs.com are veterans, and it’s clear military topics are near and dear to your heart, whether you’re currently active-duty or retired. 2019 saw nearly every branch of the military change its military uniforms in some way. Why all of the changes? It’s anyone’s guess. As contributor David Brown noted in his piece, “But why am I surprised? This is the same Army who has been through three camouflage patterns so far in the same war. Grass, rocks, trees and sand have been the same for about 70 million years.”
Believe it or not, security clearance processing times finally improved in the fourth quarter of 2019. But after years of processing times that hovered between one and two years, it’s no surprise many people were wondering how long their current clearance processing time would take. In the first quarter of 2019, it was 468 days for a Top Secret clearance and 234 days for a Secret clearance.
We’re a careers site, so perhaps it’s no surprise that an article about how to spot an incompetent leader was one of the top for 2019 – when people cite their reasons for leaving a job, bad bosses remain high on the list. If you’re looking for habits to AVOID in 2019, these five attributes should be high on the list.
Imitation is the truest form of flattery – and at ClearanceJobs we spend a fair amount of time imitating ourselves, because the numbers change, and we want you to have access to the most relevant, recent information about the security clearance process (as well as the capacity to look back historically and see where things were 5 months or five years ago). The government has gotten much better at releasing information, but it still struggles with the layers of bureaucracy needed to get information approved and disseminated to candidates who are desperate for any information related to their clearances and government careers status. Information access was a theme in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and we can expect 2020 to be another year of improvements in both processing times and policy. Until then, count on ClearanceJobs to continue to harass, cajole and hound the information you need.
Nothing really increases office camaraderie like labeling your workers into some variation of these four attributes (hint: avoid the stupid and diligent at all costs!).
One article about the Army Combat Fitness Test wasn’t enough – we had several posts this year highlighting various aspects of the test, and each one of them generated a fair amount of interest. Regardless of how you feel about the test (and ClearanceJobs has absolutely no editorial stance), one thing is certain – the ACFT involves a lot more gear and testing criteria than the old test. For Guard and Reserve units, who may not have dedicated training facilities, the logistics of acquiring the gear alone represent a logistics hurdle. Do the benefits of a fitness program that’s more in-tuned with 21st century fitness outweigh the costs? We report. You decide.
Ah, the polygraph. Few nuanced elements of the personnel security program draw up more ire and angst than a polygraph. Security clearance policy changes have clarified it’s no longer allowable to deny a security clearance based solely on a failed or inconclusive polygraph – but that doesn’t mean it can’t become an employment obstacle to some on the path to a national security career. A single inconclusive polygraph typically simply requires the test to be readministered. If you’ve taken multiple polygraphs, and they’ve all been inconclusive, the government will likely dig in to see if there are factors leading to the inconsistency, from medications to stress.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products were certainly hot this year – and like most things, the health craze heated up faster than government policy (you know, which is usually decades behind) could catch up. Since publication of this article, we’ve heard from multiple Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency representatives who noted CBD use itself may be considered a health supplement and therefore not reportable as a ‘drug’ on the SF-86. But obviously that depends completely on the product falling under the government-mandated .3% of THC or less that would allow it to be categorized as hemp. If you trust the (lack of) potency in your product – proceed. But if you’re uncertain, know a failed drug test will likely be a career killer.
No one says it better than Steven Leonard himself: “The dreadful day has finally arrived. You’ve reached that point in your career where you are resigned to a future of staff work. Not the exciting kind where you’re Jack Ryan pursuing enemies of the state with cutting edge cyber-sleuthing — the other kind where a good day ends with you running down a linoleum-tiled hallway in utter and complete glee because you think you’ve stumbled on “the money slide” that will make you the envy of every other poor soul rowing aimlessly in the bowels of the cubicle farm.” These 10 habits will make you laugh, or cry, depending upon where you’re at in your career journey. But, if you’re lucky, just like 2019, the staff assignment that leaves you with a million priorities, a lot of supervision, and living like the Oprah of your office – it, too, will pass.
What didn’t we cover in 2019 that we should have? Was there a favorite article that didn’t make it to the top? Drop it in the comments. Cheers to 2020 – another year to do great things, read great things, and leave the national security community in a better place.