As the pace of life continues to pick back up, Katie Keller and I reviewed all the happenings on the news site this past week.  Each week, many things happen around the world that impact our understanding of national security. On ClearedCast, we review and discuss the things that stood out this week.

Week in Review – ClearedCast Style

Intelligence News

Christopher Burgess began last week with a play by play of the Thousand Talents Program’s Chinese scientist who was arrested on the run. Mad props to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent for noticing that Song Gou Zheng was asking a fellow passenger on the charter flight out of Alaska to take on board two of his bags. It’s clear that there is a reason for this caution to not carry anyone else’s bags but your own – otherwise, you could be aiding someone on the run.

Jason Criss Howk also walked us through the Taliban peace talks this week, considering whether peace is really what the organization is seeking. With so much back and forth in the Middle East over the years, the agreement details between the U.S., Afghan government, and Taliban are helpful.
One of our newer contributors, Brandon Arkfeld, has been following TikTok, and their recent ban in India and possible ban in the U.S. While some of our younger generation will cry over this potential loss, it’s hard to ignore that there’s a repository of information potentially accessible by China, and with a repository of people’s faces, we get deep fakes and different security issues that come up from that. For cleared employees, Chinese-owned apps continue to be something to watch, and TikTok is probably not an app you want on your phone.

Security Clearance News

We looked at whether or not different clearance levels translate to a bigger paycheck. While there’s no real way to quantify the pay change for moving up in clearance levels, the reality is that a TS does make you more marketable. Clearances are like a reliability ticket to employers, proving that you are a person that can be trusted. However, a GS-15 employee has the same pay scale whether or not a clearance is required. The biggest thing is you need the experience and the education to meet the job requirements.

We also considered clearance processing times in quarter 3. Due to processing things during this COVID-19 pandemic, adjudicators are at home. As the processing times continue to speed up despite setbacks, it sets an encouraging tone to the national security industry that the defense world keeps marching on regardless of what is happening around the world.
Sean Bigley discusses the impact of binge drinking on clearance status, identifying what is considered in these cases. It’s helpful to know that there’s a difference between life patterns and one-time events. It’s also key to remember that adjudicators are looking at the whole person, as well as your honesty levels in reporting. It’s always better to share than have someone dig up what you thought was buried.

Career Advice

Pandemic life may seem like a bad time to go job searching, but all indicators in the defense industry say otherwise. In fact, it can even be a good opportunity to relocate even. Some companies are even offering a sign-on bonus for applicants that are willing to relocate. The quasi virtual life could even make your shift to new territory even smoother. There’s a lot of flexibility and the market is in your favor to do it. Don’t forget what your overall career goals are.

Todd Keys helped us think through how to move from an individual performer to a team leader. We talk a lot about toxic leaders and good leadership, but this mentality is important to consider in transitioning to a leader within an organization. What does it look like to consider team success before personal resume gains?
Jason Criss Howk gave us a history lesson and leadership education based on William Slim. He translated Slim’s concepts of war to everyday lessons in leadership. It’s clear how we can learn from a myriad of places and times. It’s also helpful because it shows that what veterans learn in their time of service is 100% transferable and beneficial to the office.

What To Look for This week

Stay tuned for more leadership lessons this week. Steve Leonard helped us think through military moves this past week, complete with one military move involving an inebriated mover. This week, he returns to focusing on leadership. You can also read about whether or not virtual conferences are worth it, and whether or not you can get a clearance if you don’t really need it. Have a security clearance career topic you’d like us to cover? Drop us a note in the comments.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.