There’s a lot to say about 2020, but for me, the year seemed to drag and fly by all at the same time. There were clouds of course, but through it all, there were silver linings. Plus, we had a lot of security clearance news and headlines to cover. National security marched on in spite of the pandemic. Here are the headlines with the most ClearanceJobs readers in 2020.

1. Pornhub Viewer Worried Big Brother is Watching Google Searches – Ask CJ

When it comes to obtaining and maintaining a security clearance, it’s common to experience a small amount of paranoia. There’s a certain stress that comes with supporting national security, knowing that your personal decisions might have a greater impact on whether or not you’re still employed. Because without that security clearance, your national security career can go up in smoke. One clearance holder was concerned that the government might be watching his personal online viewing habits. Individual questions like this are always helpful in clarifying that the intent of the background investigation is to make sure that you’re honest and loyal. So while the government doesn’t have the resources or the necessary warrant to track every clearance holder’s browsing habits, it’s important to make sure that all actions are void of criminal activity, leaving you with only honest answers.

2. Top 5 IT Certifications That Will Get You Paid in 2020

With each year, certifications become more and more important – especially in the IT industry. And when those certifications translate to a raise or a higher paying job, it becomes more important to track which certifications show you the money. Greg Stuart, owner and editor of says, “In the IT career field, hands on experience goes a long way in showing that you have the chops to do the job you are applying for; however, in order to stand out and get paid, IT certifications are what you need.” If you’re not sure where to start, Stuart recommends assessing your current skills and building from there.

3. 10 Extinct, Discontinued, and Unlikely Future Ranks in the U.S. Military

The U.S. military is ever evolving (hello Space Force). Ranks within the military have changed over the years. David Brown’s article brought out a lot of feedback and nostalgia for many. I have to agree with one commenter – Commodore does have a nice ring to it. Brown says it best, “Commodore is the most impressive-sounding rank that isn’t actually a rank anymore, and feels like the sort of title held exclusively by rakish, devil-may-care men of the sea. You’ve got a commodore on your boat or at your card table, and he’s going to win a war or win your money.” Maybe if I can’t be Commodore, General of the Armies also has a nice sound to it, but I’d rather not fight George Washington for it.

4. U.S. Army’s New Infantry Weapon Down to Three Competitors

The U.S. Army’s new infantry weapon garnered interest all.year.long. Maybe it’s because of the out-of-the-norm agreements to compete instead of the typical contract specifications leading to contract award. Sig Sauer, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, and Textron Systems all provided prototypes to the Army. The prototypes went through testing, but due to COVID-19, the next round of prototypes are slated for February. May the best man (or company) win.

5. Zoom’s Data Sailing Into China: FBI Issues Warning of Counterintelligence Threat

Zoom will forever be in our core memories when we think of 2020. Before the pandemic, I honestly hadn’t heard of Zoom. I was in online meetings, but much of my work at the time was face to face, and I didn’t have any need of this platform. And then overnight, everyone knew about it. I even heard people use the company name as a verb – it was like the new Google. Of course, when everyone is online using a tool, cyber issues will always arise. “Zoom-bombing” became a thing and where the data was stored caused concern. The FBI issued warnings. Cybersecurity experts weighed in, and Zoom made some overdue updates throughout the year. I’m sure everyone will be a little bit happier with a little less Zoom in their life at some point.

6. The 10 Worst War Movies of the Past 20 Years

Based on comments and the numbers, this article was exactly what we all needed. A little less arguing over politics and a little more arguing over hot takes about the worst war movies. And as usual, Steve Leonard does not disappoint. Some wanted more movies on the list, and some of these movies, many still love to watch and hate them. Leonard’s list gives credence to his position that “Hollywood can tell a good story, or it can tell a story good. But it can’t do both.” To be honest, I had to carefully read through this list to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally liked a war movie without verifying its military accuracy. Passed the test.

7. Top 10 Best War Movies in the Last 20 Years

And if you’re going to spout off about all the terrible things in Hollywood, you might as well look at what they have done well in the past 20 years – at least when it comes to war movies. The reality is that for someone like me who has never served in the military, movies have an opportunity to help me suspend my personal reality for about two hours and catch a glimpse of another world. And when Hollywood takes the time to get that right, the audience’s views are better shaped and molded to the reality of war and military life.

8. How Using These Apps Can Cost You Your Clearance

Some days, my phone feels like it owns much of my brain. Technically, I can do more because of the phone – unless of course, it’s the cause of my current distraction. It’s a double-edged sword. However, there are some apps that I have always steered clear of (cough, TikTok, cough). In full disclosure, I avoided the app at first because making videos didn’t really seem all that fun. And scrolling through all of the content seemed like information overload. So, I was relieved to have avoided the peer pressure to use the app when it became clear that TikTok’s ownership status posed a security issue. Of course, TikTok isn’t the only problematic app, and it won’t be the last.

9. OnlyFans Account and Security Clearance Guidelines on Active Duty – Ask CJ

We almost made it to the end of the list without another sexual behaviors question, but here we are again. Only this time, we’re just “asking for a friend” who is worried about a reinvestigation. When it comes to side hustles, some are more easily explained than others during a background investigation. So, if clarification is needed, Adjudicative Guideline D and E  are helpful in understanding what might be a red flag. Everything from blackmail to cybersecurity issues to organizational policies could impact the clearance holder.

10. The Confident Idiot: Leadership, Self-Awareness, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Some articles help us put into words what we’ve witnessed over the years. Leave it to Steve Leonard to artfully tell the story of the confident idiot. Because in the world of national security, while we have had phenomenal leaders, many have experienced what Leonard describes for us. He says, “In the military and government service, the Dunning-Kruger effect often translates to incompetent leaders incapable of recognizing their own incompetence. Simply put, they are convinced they excel when they don’t and lack any ability to accurately assess their own incompetence. In fact, they are often so sure of their own abilities that they exhibit narcissistic behavior, demonstrating a level of hubris that belies their own lack of ability. In their world, where a lack of self-awareness abounds, it’s incomprehensible that anyone would question their ability.” Mic drop. 


What didn’t we cover this year that you missed? Or better yet, did you have a favorite that I missed? Drop it in the comments. Good riddance to 2020. I’m cautiously optimistic for 2021.

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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.