The editorial team walks through news on COVID-19 contact tracing in the defense sector, security clearance processing updates from agencies like the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) and Department of Energy (DOE), the top modeling and simulation conference happening this year, and how mentoring can help to combat ‘Imposter Syndrome.’

Week in Review – ClearedCast Style


This past week, the state of Washington has started to push a COVID-19 notification phone app. Along with similar apps, it uses Bluetooth technology, so it can detect proximity to other phones. If someone else is running the app and tests positive, the app can anonymously notify others who were within six feet. Allegedly, no personal data or locations are revealed. However, DoD has limited what personnel can use, when it comes to tracking apps because technology that relies on geolocation can be a security risk. Basically, it’s understandable that leaders are skeptical about the vendors claims of app safety. In the past, vendors have made claims about security but after breaches occur, we find out that they weren’t 100%. So, it’s good to be cautious. However, The Defense Health Agency has worked on implementing alternate tracing devices – that aren’t linked to personal smartphones in order to slow the spread.

The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Edication Conference (I/ITSEC) went virtual this past week. It’s a yearly conference in Orlando that brings together leaders in government, industry, and academia – all to focus on the state of modeling and simulation and push forward for the future. The theme this year is The Future is Now, which is relevant as it highlights the importance of pushing the boundaries on what our capabilities are because the threats are present and constantly evolving. One of the key takeaways was highlighting the need for more training as we emphasize Great Competition in the National Defense Strategy, an important piece of that is training the warfighter. The leaders from all of the branches – including Space Force – all recognize that the way to compete is to train – because it’s always about the people. Space Force especially has need for modeling and simulation when it comes to not only training but also to learning about the space environment. It’s clear that issues in national security aren’t taking a year off during the pandemic, so it’s important for events like this to keep on keeping on.

Security Clearance World

Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA) provided a Quarter 4 update on Security Clearance Processing times. Process improvements, such as VTC options for personal subject interviews, electronic fingerprints, and technological enhancements to things from the SF-86 application to continuous vetting over periodic reinvestigations have helped them respond to pandemic conditions. According to the reports, for the DoD/Industry, it currently takes 136 days to process a Top Secret clearance and 107 days to process a Secret security clearance. The processing times have had small ups and downs this year, but they are far below prior years. While COVID-19 has slowed the work during the background investigation phase, it’s clear that the work is still moving forward and overall processing times are showing that.

The same can be said for the Department of Energy timelines. Top Secret reinvestigations were a little higher than initial Top Secret clearance processing times, but overall, the numbers are moving in the right direction. One interesting component of the DOE processing times is that in Q 1, DOE processed 3,358 initial clearances and 3,353 reinvestigations. However, fast forward to Q4, and the DOE processed 1,797 initial clearances and 2,360 reinvestigations. So, the number of initial clearances to process in Q4 is almost half of what it was in Q1. Less work should translate to faster processing times overall.

Career Advice

As far as career advice, it’s important to remember that despite this being a pandemic year, we still need to be looking at our careers and how to grow. This past week, Colonel Candice Frost discussed the impact of imposter syndrome on careers and the workplace. It’s a common trait that often holds people back from performing to the level that they’re capable of achieving. In some ways, it’s a hyper focus on what other people think – whether or not they feel like an individual should be filling their current shoes. It’s important to note how helpful mentoring is in moving past this, so maintain your connections and keep working through those feelings that can hold you back.

While it’s helpful to consider how to not feel like a fake or a fraud, sometimes, when we’re just focusing on others instead of ourselves, like Steve Leonard points out in his piece on servant leadership, we become an ally to others and a better leader. Giving others a voice in decisions and empowering them can help set aside personal egos or desires to look good, and just do good work together as a team. Steve outlines the core principles of servant leadership, and he starts off with listening. So often, people think that to be a leader, they have to be heard, but really, it comes down to listening to what others are saying. In a time when we are often not face to face or maybe for others, they’re on rotating schedules to reduce exposure, it’s important to think through leadership and team building. In order to meet the needs of national security, we have to work together as a team. It really is the people who are the backbone of national security, and it’s important to foster relationships and develop teams.

News to Look for This week

Keep your eyes open for our weekly recruiting articles, where we sum up who is hiring or opportunities to watch, as well as offer weekly recruiting tips. And as always, look for clearance, leadership, and workplace knowledge bombs.

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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.