Cleared personnel are literally everywhere there is a classified program. Security managers who tend to their training are not. One of the main requirements faced by security managers is to discover how to energize those who are not security personnel in accomplishing—enthusiastically— the broader security mission. How do we draw recently cleared, or poorly trained, persons to our goal of securing classified documents, components, and programs?

Getting Buy-in From Cleared Personnel

How can we convince often skeptical engineers, say, to support our security programs? First, we listen. We ask the respondent a little about his job. I always ask for a ‘reader’s digest’ version of what the engineer does in support of a cleared program. You’ll find that this question always gets a response. After all, you want to learn as best you can what the program consists of, and who better to ask than one working on it? If his answer is too detailed, ask him to explain. No harm in asking. In fact, your very interest in learning something about the cleared person’s job will ingratiate you. What better way to begin a dialogue than to show a genuine interest in what another person does for a living?

Seek to Understand First

So, we’ve begun to learn a little. When we make a liaison visit to a cleared project, first determine what the person we’re speaking to actually does. Only then, after you’ve asked the employee about themselves should you ask what in the project needs security attention. This has two benefits. It allows us to know whether the person responding knows what some of those security requirements are. Secondly, it allows us to gauge from the responses whether there is an active awareness program already. Or not. Whatever we conclude, we may have to begin with less a than optimum basis to attend to security measures. All of this comes from our assessment of one, five, or more employees to whom we’ve given our attention and listening ear. So far, we haven’t engaged them in anything coming from us. Many will appreciate that.

Making use of our ability to visit our cleared personnel is ongoing. Once we determine where the security needs are, we can establish some professional standards. Do we have regular foreign travel briefings? Who provides them? Do we have our own staff, or engage professional support investigators to provide these advisories for our people who travel? Each briefing is another opportunity to get to know your supported personnel.

Pre-TRavel Briefings are an Opportunity

Such pre-travel briefings give us a golden opportunity. Take the opportunity to brief your senior staff before they travel. Use the briefing to get to know them. Show up looking professional; knowing something of what they do for the program. After all, these senior personnel are the ones who will make your mission sparkle. They are the ones to whom you go to explain your job, what you can do for them, and how you go about it. By listening first, we can see whether there is major work to do, or even if they have good ideas to make our job easier. Show up informed, in general terms, about their mission. Show that you are aware of the value of the senior personnel’s time. They are the ones who can assign a colleague to be your local ‘go-to’ person for security matters when next you come. They can be the ones to give you special briefing time with their personnel when a threat is identified. In short, in most government offices and private companies, the senior ranking person can make things happen. Make these people your allies. And here you thought this was just a security briefing for foreign travel.

Understanding the Systems and Needs

When you arrive at the directorate, or offices of your cleared projects, know the entry process. Ensure you know the administrative staff. They can inform you of the whereabouts of all their employees. They too can usually give you their office travel plans. Never fall for the trap that says ‘only foreign travel needs a briefing.’ No. Nowadays every out-of-office trip requires a briefing. Who will our traveler meet at the Las Vegas conference? What will be the topic of discussion at the annual gathering in Huntsville? Who will be in attendance? Few briefers know the whole process they must go through to get a briefing cleared for public release. Why shouldn’t you be the one to so advise? Make the cleared personnel aware of the time involved to clear a document for such release. How will you know ahead of time of their upcoming activities? Your good liaison with the administrative staff, fully coordinated ahead of time with the senior staff, is your ticket to a successful program in that area. Once you show you can offer something concrete to the success of their mission, you are in. They will eventually call you to ask about an issue, or advise you of upcoming events.

Respect Others

A wise business philosophy begins with advising those who would succeed to first “Show up.” Be the person who knows the value of his colleagues’ time. Always show respect for all level of personnel with whom you interact. Never assume they automatically assume your mission is vital. In fact, if they don’t see you as helping, determine why. Then, possess the humility to ask how you can make things better, the better to protect your programs.

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John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.