Monday, July 4, 2011

Do cleared employees of cleared defense contractors know who the FSO is?

     “I’d like you to move my desk from the window to the inside wall. I keep getting a glare on my computer screen.” Our friendly executive assistant said to me.
      “Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence. However, I’m not as strong as I look and don’t think I should tackle that project alone. Have you sent a request to facilities?” I replied.
     “Well that’s what I thought I was doing. Aren’t you the Facility Officer?”
      That was a humbling but eye opening experience from my first three months on the job as a Facility Security Officer (FSO) at a small cleared defense contractor. At the time, we only had one contract and very little classified work. However, as small as we were I still had to establish a security system to protect classified information. A major part of the job was institutionalizing my position so that everyone understood the role of the FSO.
     I wasn’t above helping. Sometimes everyone had to pitch in to take on multiple responsibilities to keep the ship on course. I could move desks, make coffee, write reports, manage safety, exports compliance and execute a wealth of additional duties. The point was that she did not understand the role of a Facility Security Officer, and that was my fault.
     So, how does an FSO “institutionalize” their position and security program? Here are a few recommendations:
  • Be technically proficient in security tasks as they relate to your company and NISPOM. Understand the DD Form 254 and how your cleared employees are expected to perform on classified contracts. If the DD Form 254 approves performance of classified work onsite, then you might need to know how to receive, store, ship, destroy and etc. If there is no classified performance on site, then you might need to be focused on security clearances. Read the 254 and statements of work and become very familiar with customer requirements.
  • Attend executive level meetings. This may be a new concept for your company. In some cases, they may view the FSO only as an administrator of security clearances. If so, work on changing the perception and showing value as the executive responsible for classified contracts. If you are currently not involved or invited, get a calendar. Notify the assistant or meeting holder to request and invitation. At first, you might attend and let people get used to seeing your presence. If you have questions or comments, make a note and contact that person after the meeting. Establish credibility as a concerned company officer and the senior officer of classified contracts security. The end goal is to attend regularly and contribute to company decisions, especially where classified contracts are involved.
  • Attend all company events and network. Get to know executives and employees on neutral ground. Have fun and inject yourself into the team. Break down the “us vs. them” mentality. The FSO and security department is part of the team.
  • Be the authority. Hold annual security awareness training, put out newsletter, provide security statistics, keep your company informed on national industrial security issues, work inter-departmentally while developing policy (safety, facilities, HR, program management, etc) as policy affects everyone.

     These recommendations are not all inclusive. The point is to project the position of FSO as a company asset. Your job isn’t to raise awareness of you, but of your position. It is about protecting your company’s ability to compete for and maintain classified contracts and cleared employees. When successful executives will value your input and responsibilities as an FSO.

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