On Monday, May 15, the Intelligence and National Security Foundation (INSF) launched the 2023 INSA Foundation “The Future of the IC Workforce” Multimedia Campaign, a three-part series focused on Gaining Information Advantage.

Underwritten by QinetiQ, the first installment examined the IC workforce, and featured Scott Coltson, Deputy Director for Mission Services, DIA; Christine C. Parker, Senior Strategist, Acting Senior Advisor to the Chief Human Capital Officer, NSA; Pamela Hardy, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, QinetiQ US; and moderated by Lindy Kyzer, Director of Content at Clearance Jobs.

The webinar was an engaging conversation around issues affecting the national security hiring space today. Below is an excerpt of some of the questions received during the webinar:

What can you tell us about technologies to augment the workforce? How is the IC leveraging those for personnel?

IC leaders noted technology and software were aspects of their talent management strategies, and helps to streamline and ensure they’re getting quality applicants. Modernizing not just for the mission – but to enable the workforce, the key aspect of accomplishing the mission – is a focus.

“We look at readiness as our people…how do we make sure our workforce is ready,” said Coltson.

Planning, strategy and execution aren’t just about immediate needs, but also about looking to the future – which is why strategic planning and talent management go hand-in-hand at the NSA.

“We’re bringing in our strategic workforce planning team,” said Parker. “We have to support our missions, and we know at the agency level that our people support those missions.”

“NSA has made some really concerted steps to use technology in our hiring process,” added Parker. But while software enables more candidate connections and better interactions, it’s not a replacement for human interaction in the hiring process.

“We want to couple that with a personal touch,” said Parker.

For Christine Parker, GEN Nakasone has said NSA is hiring 3,000 this year.  Will NSA meet this hiring goal?  If not, what are the obstacles in the way?

“We’ve hired a little over 1700 people this year,” said Parker. “We’re well under way.” Average number of hires per year at NSA historically was 1550, so Parker noted they are already well over prior years annual hiring figures. Parker emphasized that the current hiring push was likely one step in a multi-year approach to increase hiring across NSA.

For Scott Coltson – I hear DIA uses paybands and not the GS payscale for its employees?  What is the business case for that, and for a new hire with a 4 year degree in the DMV area, are they offered the equivalent entry salary of a GS-7 at the DC/Baltimore locality pay rate?

Coltson noted that DIA tried out paybands but reverted back to the GG (General Government) scale. “It seems to be working quite well for us. When employees have a clear path or a chart to achieve promotions, and things like training are well laid out…the promotion thing takes care of itself. That frees up employees to think about assignments and what assignments are out there,” said Coltson.

What is NSA and DIA’s experience with PPTE — public-private talent exchange — for example allowing employees to take short assignments in industry and then return to their government job.  Is that happening much, and among the benefits, does it help with retention?

Coltson said the DIA has taking advantage of public-private partnerships, and that there are significant benefits to programs across the IC that allow individuals to accept assignments in the private sector and then return to the agency to take what they’ve learned and apply it to government.

“We partner with many of the big Fortune 500 companies where we’ll send an officer off for a year,” said Coltson. “I think the key to these programs is making sure when they come back to your agency that have an assignment to help apply that learning.”

Did COVID have a significant impact on employee retention?

All panelists noted that COVID changed their workforces – but in many ways for the better.

“There is a huge desire now for a full ‘human’ experience,” said Hardy. “There is  different level of passion, and that’s where we really have to focus on retention.”

And when it comes to how to retain those employees, Hardy said “Inclusivity is the differentiator. When we’re talking about attracting, but also people staying. How do we make the time spent, whether remote or in person, as meaningful to the individual as possible,” said Hardy.

The lessons learned aren’t just in how to retain and motivate employees, but also how to train and develop them.

“We learned a lot from COVID,” said Coltson. “One of the things we took away is we can empower people. Not only on the mission side but also on the training and development side.”

For the IC, in particular, who may have been used to doing things ‘one way’ – COVID opened up opportunities to find new methods.

“What COVID taught us is there are a lot of options to evolve a learning model,” said Coltson.

Is there a way to shorten the security clearance process?

The government is working to address shortening the security clearance process as one aspect of improving the federal government onboarding process. With a security clearance a requirement for almost every intelligence community position, unless you improve the security clearance process, you can’t accomplish the 180-day onboarding goals the IC has been given by congress.

The government is actively looking at ways to shorten the timeline through process improvements and reform efforts through Trusted Workforce 2.0. The National Background Investigation Services (NBIS), is the overhaul of the 1970s era legacy system currently enabling background investigations. Over the next year eApp is set to be rolled out across the entire applicant pool.

For the applicant, there are also steps that can be taken to improve the speed up the process, the most basic being to accurately and completely fill out the SF-86 security clearance application. Inaccurate or missing information lengthens the investigation time. For applicants with issues in their background, they should know those issues won’t preclude a government career, but using the ‘additional comments’ section on the SF-86 can help clarify and display mitigating information.

How are you making it easier for lateral moves to the IC? Maybe someone already has a clearance at one agency but wants to transfer to another? Is TW 2.0 a part of this?

Clearance mobility is one aspect of Trusted Workforce 2.0, but more steps remain to make clearance transfer across the IC more seamless. Suitability requirements remain different across government agencies, and while reciprocity into the DoD has been reduced to a day, transferring both into or within the IC often requires a different suitability designation and sometimes additional vetting based on the agency requirements. It is easier than it has historically been, but remains a topic of security clearance reform efforts.


Tune into Episode 2 in the Future of the IC Workforce: Gaining Information Advantage series August 14 2-3 PM ET.


Underwritten by:

QinetiQ US is a leading defense and security company in the United States providing mission-led innovation at pace. As a provider of technologically advanced services and products to the US Department of Defense and national security agencies, QinetiQ US is positioned to deliver key aspects of the modernization required to address our customers’ pivot to counter near peer adversaries. QinetiQ’s engineering services span the DoD and Intel community providing subject matter expertise in the areas of communications, sensor integration and research and development, survivability, and unmanned ground combat systems. QinetiQ US is creating new ways of protecting what matters most; testing technologies, systems, and processes to make sure they work as expected; and enabling customers to deploy new and enhanced-existing capabilities with the assurance they will deliver the outcomes required. Please visit our website at https://www.qinetiq.com/en-us/ and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook @QinetiQUS.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer