Learning a New Security Process!

One of my earliest memories as an FSO was JUST completing my FSO Training. (This was back when it was in a binder with modules and the quizzes were done with a pen- cil. I’m old. Shut up.)

My boss brought me the NISPOM, which was a 4-inch thick book back then and said, “Okay, figure out how we get CACs!”.

For those of you who have read the NISPOM for information, you may laugh at that because it is clearly in Section NO WHERE!

Learning a New Security Process!

New Security Process continued…

The NISPOM, in fact, covers a lot of over-arching policy guidance but there is a lot of day-to-day actions for FSOs that it doesn’t cover. There. I said it. Hopefully, the patron saint of FSOs won’t smite me today.

So—how do we learn some of the new policies and procedures that have fallen into our lap as FSOs with new awards or to help personnel have access to their work?

I have a few hints and since CACs are an on-going headache for me, I will use that as my working example.

#1: Manage Expectations

It can sometimes take forever for a government customer to make the award, but when they do, they often want the company to start immediately! If it is with a department, installation, or office that your organization has never worked with before, you may need to tell your personnel, HR, executive management that, although you are a great FSO (which you are — you are here!), you will be learning this process as fast as you can. It won’t help you if the new program manager is calling, texting or emailing you while cc-ing half the world as you are trying to learn the process.

Learning a New Security Process!Remind them you are working, keep them in the loop as you learn, and update them as much as you can to keep panicked distractions to a minimum.

#2 Research!

Every new award comes with a DD254 (hopefully) and a statement of work (usually) that has instructions or points of contact. I would start there and gather what you can.

Then, reach out to the offices (this includes government personnel, prime contractors, security access offices, and incumbent personnel) explain—humbly—that you are trying to learn and complete a process.

Sometimes, even Google is a great help when searching for something very specific: “How do I obtain my CAC at Fort Bragg, NC” for example will get you closer than you were before.

Learning a New Security Process!

#3 Ask for Help

I touched on this a little when I mentioned contacting POCs but this one has a little more begging and a little pride swallowing. This one involves letting others know that you have no idea where to start and could they point you in the right direction?

Embarrassing? Sure, a little, but you will find many resources provided to you (where you will have to swallow that pride again) and keep asking for help until you get what you need. This may also involve some gushing to those who assisted you (even if it is done in a patronizing way) and a few “I owe you one!” to other FSOs in your memberships or associations.

#4 Try and fail!

Once, I had to do a new process and the security POC who was supposed to assist me sent me a 162-page manual and a “read this” on a night that I had planned to watch some Game of Thrones (this was a few years ago).

She was also the approver of what I had to do so she could easily just tell me! As I went through the 162 pages, nothing became very clear. Finally, I just went for it and submitted forms and a request. All good… NOPE. She coldly sent me a scathing email telling me everything I did wrong and yes, she cc’d about 12 other people, and the program manager was blowing up my phone as I was reading it. It was not a fun time for me.

Learning a New Security Process!HOWEVER—I implemented all the things she said I did wrong, thanked her graciously for the correction while humbly admitting that I had confusion which she had clarified. I told her (and the other 12) that I would get it back to her immediately and voila! Now, it was correct and I had the pro- cess for all that would follow! It was not fun, but doing nothing was getting me no where and that is an important lesson for moving a process for- ward.

Quick note about “the 12” on the email chain who witnessed my failure: over half of them did not even read the email, the rest saw that I responded quickly, were grateful that I resolved it without their having to get involved, and the panicky PM offered to buy me a drink, which I declined because I still had not seen the Game of Thrones episode yet and Jon Snow was more interesting than him. We are WAY more aware of our failures than most others are. It is better to take action and try and learn than to not do anything for fear of failure. This goes for CACs and it goes for life!


For those of you who find the constant changes overwhelming, fear not! The FSO PRO team, the FSO “Superhero Members” and the FSO Success newsletter are here to provide you with support, templates, checklists, tools, and strategies for marketing all of this to your organization!

Together, we FSO Superheroes will move one another successfully into the changes ahead!

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Learning a New Security Process!

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FSO PRO thanks all the FSOs out there for everything you do to keep the warfighter safe. Even the smallest task is designed to keep our nation’s information out of the hands of those who would do harm. We, as FSOs, are doing our part to stay vigilant and determined to protect those who protect us, even in our own small way.

That is why we say how awesome you are. And thank you.

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